Jesus said we are supposed to love our neighbors. (Matthew 22:39). We often take that passage to mean how we ought to love the poorest of the poor in our city or on the other side of the world. And we should. But I think we often miss other “neighbors” in the process.
Mother Teresa once said, “I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?”
Do you feel as convicted from the quote as I do?
Kellie and I moved to Shelby Township back in 2004, just a few months after we were married. Over that time we have gotten to know our next door neighbors about as well as most Americans do nowadays. (Which isn’t saying much). We know their names and their kids’ names and chat every once in a while. We even talked with our neighbors directly behind us about having a BBQ this summer. They seemed interested. I hope we follow through.
But one neighbor has been an exception. Because our lot is more wide than deep, the house immediately to the north of us is about 50 feet away from ours and on an angle facing away from our front porch. Because of that we don’t naturally interact with them as much as our other neighbors.
Until this past Monday.
His name is Jerry and his wife’s name escapes me as I write this. That’s how well I know them. A super tall cottonwood tree on their side of the property line lost a *massive* branch during a windstorm a week ago (this “branch” is the size of some trees!) The bulk of it landed in our garden, taking out our anti-rabbit-fencing in the process.
This past Monday I was looking forward to a day of relaxation. It’s my Sabbath day. But around 9am Kellie noticed Jerry was outside with his chainsaw, ready to cut up the fallen branch.
I knew this was a moment to practice what I preached. The previous day at The Eastside Vineyard I preached a message called “Conspiracy of Kindness” which was all about showing God’s love in practical ways. As followers of Jesus we are called to do good, to love our neighbors with no-strings-attached. Pastor Steve Sjogren said, God is looking for people who believe that a humble demonstration of love plants a seed of eternity in the hearts of others that will blossom into faith in Christ.
It’s easy to preach about showing God’s love in practical ways, but it’s a lot harder to practice it . . . especially on your day off.
Thankfully, I rejected the dozen excuses that instantly popped into my head about why I shouldn’t help Jerry. I headed outdoors and asked him if he needed a hand. Did I mention he is 70-years-old? Did I mention how huge this branch was?
He gladly accepted.
I spent the next hour or so “loving my neighbor” by helping him cut up this branch. Kellie and the kids came out. Jerry’s wife came out. We had pleasant conversation about the weather.
When we wrapped things up, he expressed his gratitude for the extra set of hands. And that was it — this time around.
Maybe next time I’ll be able to recall his wife’s name. Maybe next time God will guide the conversation to talk about matters of faith. Who knows what next time will hold. But there needed to be a “this time” before there could be a “next time.”
***Join us this Sunday at The Eastside Vineyard Church. We are continuing our story-by-story look in the the Gospel of Matthew as we’ll unpack a fascinating passage that focuses on the Jewishness of Jesus and His original audience — Matthew 5:17-20. Sunday. June 19th (Father’s Day!). 6pm. More info at tevchurch.org***