February 10, 2021
“Do you not like our new neighbors?” my son asked me. We were driving to school and passed a mother and son walking to the bus stop. Instantly, I knew he was trying to understand if I didn’t like them because of an altercation that happened in the neighborhood. The new neighbors had gotten into a brawl with our existing neighbors and friends. The situation got so heated that the police had to be called. I remember seeing the squad cars in my cul-du-sac. This was why my son asked the question.
I had been harboring ill-will towards these new neighbors for several weeks. As we passed the mother and son I didn’t bother waving or say hello as I have done to most of the other folks on the street. I didn’t want my son thinking it was ok to dislike someone on the premise that they were unpredictable or hateful to others.
I explained in a very calculated way that it wasn’t that I didn’t like them, but I didn’t like what they did. The theme of my mini-sermon that morning was “Love the sinner, not the sin.” Still, he noticed I hadn’t been as neighborly as he was accustomed to me being. I told him that I am cautious of the new neighbors because they didn’t show self-control or restraint. Then I realized the hypocrisy of my own life.
“You know buddy, those are the kinds of people that need the love of Jesus most huh?” I confessed.
“Yes, probably so,” he responded.
I was hoping to teach my son something important but truthfully I was preaching to myself. We should embrace people right where they are in life. Not just the ones who think like us, behave with the same social decorum, have the same education or political views. As Christians, we should be more neighborly than anyone else on the street.
I’m commissioned to love the unloveable.
The people that are hard to love help me become more like Jesus. Loving those that love us doesn’t grow us. Loving the unlovely does.
“If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.” (Matthew 5:46 NLT)
Difficult people who are critical, always in a bad mood, the ones who never compliment us, and the unpredictable ones, are the people we need to love intentionally.
I dropped my son off at school and headed home. I thought about how I had failed to introduce myself to the new neighbors as I had done with others. I was harboring resentment toward them for how they had treated my friends. I wasn’t being neighborly. I felt convicted and committed to say hello and at least introduce myself the next time I saw my new neighbors.
I was turning toward home when I realized I needed a few things at the store. I picked up some fruit, dishwashing soap, and a loaf of bread. I was heading to checkout when I saw her. My new neighbor walking directly towards me. I knew it was her because she was wearing the same clothing I had seen her in only a few minutes before. This was the do or die moment. I knew God was calling me out to PRACTICE WHAT I PREACHED!
“Hey, aren’t you my new neighbor? The ones who just moved into the house at the end of the cul-de-sac?” I questioned.
She looked caught off-guard.
“I live in the house to your left, just next to Jim (not his real name).”
“Oh yes, we did just move in,” she said.
I could tell she was wondering if I had heard anything about the evening the cops showed up. I made small talk and told her how much we loved the neighborhood. I found out her name and where they had moved from.
“Nice to meet you, have a great day,” I said.
I pushed my cart to the checkout and got in my car to drive home. As I put my hand on the gear shift I shook my head in disbelief. God was listening. I bet He was laughing as I pulled into the grocery store parking lot knowing that I was going to have to put into action what I had just encouraged my son to do. Thankfully, I listened.
This was a simple lesson in practicing what you are professing. It was a simple introduction not a salvation moment, BUT it was significant. A door was opened to a new relationship. I don’t know what the next steps are but I am thankful I was given the opportunity to see my hypocrisy and make it right.
What is the thing you have been professing but not practicing? Mine was compassion and kindness. If you pray for opportunities to share the love of Jesus with others make sure you are ready to put into action what it means to be a Christian. God is listening, and He will give you the chance. Maybe sooner than you expect.