Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matthew 16:13-20
Love others as well as you love yourself.
Who is my Neighbor? In attempting to count people at their home address for the U.S. Census, it is often the case that they are not home or even refuse to answer questions. By the way, it is required by a Title 13 law to respond to the 2020 Census. In these cases, we are asked to seek a proxy, usually a neighbor, to try to complete the count. Do you know anything about the people who live next door or across the street…your neighbors? If not names, do you know how many are in the family and something about their age or ethnicity? In my experience so far, many do not know their neighbors except for seeing them come and go.
Even living in close proximity, we can be strangers, or casual acquaintances who say hello when out for a walk or doing yard work, or in the worst case, enemies in a dispute. This past month we were involved in helping my mother get a new fence put in. We have friends who are in the business and they gave the lowest bid for the work. My husband and I went with the bid to two different neighbors who share part of the fence line to see if they wanted to share half the expense for a new fence between our properties. One neighbor was very happy to participate, but the other was very distant and angry and unwilling to take part in the plan. The neighbor insisted on getting one more bid, didn’t want to use metal poles, and stated that if you had the fence boards facing your property, the other party should only pay 40%, and on and on in argument. So, when the work began on our fence, she contacted our friend and hired him to complete an extra length of fence and a gate on her property. She paid the contractor for the extra work, but did not offer to pay half for the length of fence between us. Honestly, we were all in distress at the hostility and well, un-neighborly like behavior. We lost sleep over how to handle what happened, and are praying for the wisdom and opportunity to be caring, forgiving neighbors.
While praying Psalm 23 during a swim, I got to the verse…
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
…and as I turned my head to get a breath, I yelled out “What!” in spontaneous reaction. Yes of course Lord, you help me with my “enemies,” you anoint my head with oil, which is not only for healing wounds, but protection, and a calling to love those who are unlovely. Yes Lord, you have filled my cup full and overflowing with blessings, so letting it run over in abundance in my encounters with neighbors and strangers is part of the goodness and mercy of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
- Jesus: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
- Peter: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
- Jesus: “Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven…I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:13-20
In what ways do I “bind” the spirits of others in my hateful reactions, selfishly wanting my way, or choosing sides? How can I “let loose” of control over others?
Just as Jesus gave the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to Peter, as a Christ follower, I also have the keys to open doors and hearts to the goodness and mercy of God. What does it look like for us to “loosen” the locks of un-just and un-holy living among our neighbors and strangers?
Practice. Love your neighbor well.
Go out and meet your neighbors. You can wear a mask and stand far back from the door. Find out their names and birth dates. Use their birthday or holidays as an opportunity to reach out. For a less direct approach, try sitting outside in the front yard or driveway in the cooler times of the day or take a walk around your block. Ask the name or breed of the dog they are walking or children in the stroller. During quarantine, our neighbors sat out in their separate yards and visited. They chalked our driveways and we got to know the children and called out to them across the street. My husband made friends with our next-door neighbor’s children when they were teenagers and they all come over to visit now that they are grown up and out of the house. Having a “grandparent” next door to talk about life was a “key” to life and faith conversations. What keys do you hold?
Reflect on how loving your neighbor can “let loose” the Spirit of God in your neighborhood and community.
Soul Search. While driving and making a right turn in a dedicated lane of traffic, a driver behind me honked loudly and flipped the bird as I looked in the rear-view mirror. He sped past me, again flipping the bird. I tried to review what I had done wrong as I was apparently going too slow or maybe even had unknowingly cut him off. The image of his anger as well as images of my neighbor’s anger, have stayed with me.
The “bird-flipping” driver has me thinking about my own use of strong language in reactions that are angry or self-centered. Although F-bombs and all their derivatives are everywhere, even in faith settings, I am making an effort to eliminate using expletives from my thoughts and interactions.
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Psalm 139: 23
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
Please share your own ideas in the comments here or PM me with your personal responses.