“You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray and ignore them. You shall take them back to your brother. And if he does not live near you and you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall stay with you until your brother seeks it. Then you shall restore it to him. And you shall do the same with his donkey or with his garment, or with any lost thing of your brother’s, which he loses and you find; you may not ignore it. You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and ignore them. You shall help him to lift them up again.” – Deuteronomy 22:1-4
Being a good neighbor goes beyond just being cordial to him or her; you are to be an eager helper of your neighbor, especially when they have a need and the need becomes known to you. But who is your neighbor? Your neighbor is one whom God brings into your path. God makes it obvious to those who listen to and follow Him just who their neighbors are. It is impossible to be a responsible neighbor to everyone in the world; more likely it primarily encompasses those who cross your path and somehow enter into your world. You are neither omnipresent nor omnipotent. So you are not neighbor to the world’s whole population. Nor are you able to have more than two arms or more than 24 hours in any one day. You are a mortal and the neighbor of mortals. But one of your specific callings in life in glorifying God and enjoying him forever is to be a neighbor who is worth his salt; one who helps his neighbors.
Most of us are cordial to strangers, to neighbors who are more distant than family or friends; but God calls us to a higher standard than mere cordiality with our neighbors, who also include family and friends. Needs become obvious to you as you are both observant AND desirous of being helpful. However, one primary problem with helping your neighbor is the sheer busyness and demands of your own responsibilities. You may well think you just do not have the time to divert from what you have on your own plate. Most of us lead such busy lives that we think the time to also help a neighbor is just not there. But if you really believe, as God commands, that part of your responsibility and calling is to your neighbor, you will be surprised that there really is enough time to do both, and you will be happier in your life because of it. Helping others is one of the greatest joys of living.
But helping others can be fraught with frustration as well, and disappointment. All the more reason for you to focus on who it is that you are pleasing most by being a good neighbor. God’s pleasure is your focus so much more than your neighbor. He is the One you are pleasing in loving your neighbor. Your neighbor’s pleasure or even unthankfulness is not really your concern, even though it normally figures prominently in your mind. Do not allow it to be the determinant of your willingness to help and the continuance of your service to others. Do it as though you are serving the Lord Jesus Christ. “As you did it unto them, you did it unto me.”
C.S. Lewis wrote in “Mere Christianity”, “The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.” The decision is one of your will, not of your feelings. I will love my neighbor as myself, because Jesus, my Lord, asks me to, yea commands me to. This I will do because I choose to please Him. This is as important as caring for my own family. I can find the time because my God is the provider of time, and He asks this of me.
“May the peace of God my Father rule my life in everything, that I may be calm to comfort sick and sorrowing.”
(3rd verse of Kate Wilkinson’s hymn, “May the Mind of Christ My Savior,” 1925)
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