What kind of neighbors do you have? Do you like the neighborhood where you live? Neighbors can be a source of constant irritation. The neighborhood where you live can be an embarrassment, a source of unhappiness and even fear. How should a godly person deal with the issue?
That is the issue the surfaced in my Bible reading today. Here is how the Psalmist expressed his frustration with “neighbors” in Psalm 120…
“In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue! … Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!”
Ever feel that way about your neighbors or neighborhood? The Bible indicates even Lot, Abraham’s nephew, struggled with his neighbors in Sodom and Gomorrah (read 2 Peter 2:7-8). I know the feeling – I’ve lived next to a neighbor or two whose lifestyle, language, music (they played it very loud)… (even their kids and dog) bugged me to death.
The thing is, the Bible seems to teach us to be “nice” to our neighbors – to demonstrate Christ’s love to them… even to be a redemptive influence in our neighborhood. There’s a parable that teaches it… the parable of the “Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-37). In it Jesus asked a probing question (“who proved to be a neighbor to this man?”) and gave a direct command (“go and do likewise” – i.e. be a “neighbor” to someone). In the Old Testament, this was God’s guidance to those living in exile in Babylon: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7) Jesus put it this way: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44)
So I guess the deal is this… Christians may not share the values or lifestyle of their “neighbors” – in fact, if the truth were known, their neighbors may “bug ‘em to death” – they may even, in the natural, intensely dislike their neighborhood – but God’s will is for us to “love ‘em” and be a redemptive influence in our neighborhoods (“salt and light” if you please – Matthew 5:13-16 ). God help us ‘eh?