Luke 10:29 – But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbour?" (NIV)
During my devotional time one day, I came across a quotation which essentially said that God makes our neighbours. That thought intrigued me, because most of my life, I've assumed that my neighbours were there by chance and certainly not by choice.
I confess that I find it relatively easy to contribute to overseas missions and to interact with people at church, but I tend to keep to myself when it comes to the people next door. I tend to be friendly, to share my garden produce, and to be considerate about the volume of my stereo, but the thought that God put my neighbours next door for more than cursory interactions stunned me. The idea that they are in my life by divine appointment got me thinking. I found myself wondering: if God made my neighbours, then He placed them in my life. If He put them there, then what is my obligation to them? How does God want me to interact with those who live next door to me? What does God want me to do?
To answer those questions, I did a search in my Bible software program on the word "neighbour". I came up with 81 hits. All of the passages listed had something to do with how I ought to relate to my neighbour. Either directly or indirectly, they covered everything from gossiping to coveting to justice issues. In each case, if I broke faith with my neighbour, the Word made it clear that I would break faith with God. Then there are Jesus' own words, in Mark 12:31b: "Love your neighbour as yourself." (NIV)
The Word is very practical about how I am to live alongside my neighbours. It states at least 81 different times how I am to interact with them. It hits really close to where I live.
Perhaps in these difficult economic times, we ought to be thinking less about ourselves and more about our neighbours! Perhaps we can put our thoughts into prayers for them. Perhaps we can then turn our prayers into actions to benefit our neighbours.
Prayer: Lord God, it is so easy to forget the people who live next door, to forget the people on this block, those in this neighbourhood, those in this village, those in this county, those in this state or province, those in this country, and those who live in need in this world. It is so easy for each of us to become self-absorbed by our own lives and issues. Grant us, O Lord, the ability to look beyond ourselves and our needs, and to reach out to others. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.