Who remembers the children’s show, Mr. Rogers? Boy does that show take you back. A simple show that kids all over North America watched growing up. This year they’re releasing a documentary of the Mr. Rogers. (Check it out HERE)
Rogers took risks, pushed the envelope, was super creative with very simple tools, and taught a generation of kids how to be neighbours. He knew that living with humans is harder than it looks, and rather than taking it for granted, he wanted to help people get along.
This week we begin a new series…about humans…and other humans…and how those two sets of humans get along. We hope that this series comes out exactly how it reads: but more than just a question, it’s an invitation…
Neighbouring is the most common and everyday activity we engage in. Yet so many of us have trouble being neighbours to one another. Every time you’re with another human being, you are practicing the art of neighbouring – you’re either doing it well…or not so well.
As we make this invite and ask this question, the truth is this, weather we accept or decline, the reality stays the same, WE ARE ALL NEIGHBOURS. I guess the question is, what kind of neighbour will you be?
The Bible (NIV) has 144 references to the word Neighbour.
Jesus attaches the word neighbour to the conversation about greatest commandment. (Mark 12)
Proverbs and other OT books give us wisdom and practical advice on how to navigate relationships with our neighbours.
With that in mind, let’s dive in…
Mark 12 & Luke 10
Mark tells us that Jesus is asked this questions, “what is the greatest commandment?”
Luke tells us Jesus is asked this questions, “what must one do to experience eternal life?”
The response by Jesus is the same in both gospels:
Love God – Love Others.
To be clear, Jesus is more specific…
Love God with…all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
Love your neighbour…as yourself.
He could’ve stopped at LOVE GOD and we would’ve got it. We might even have liked that response better. Sometimes it’s easier to love God than to love people…actually…most of the time. But he doesn’t.
Jesus never stops where we think he should. He always goes further – always goes deeper.
The two best words in the Bible might be BUT & AND. Because when they show up, you know the next thing coming is important.
Love God…AND…Love your neighbour as yourself.
Notice that the example we’re given on how to love others, is how we love ourselves. That’s profoundly interesting, don’t you think? All the good things you want for yourself…all the hopes you dreams you have…all the love you long for in your own life…
Jesus says…this is how to love your neighbour.
Interesting that in other places in scripture we’re told to put others before ourselves or put others interests above ours. But here, Jesus says, the way you love yourself, you must love others.
#1. Love yourself. See yourself in God’s image of you…see yourself the way God sees you.
#2. Love your neighbour in the exact same way.
(For those of you who have a hard time loving yourself, this might be a moment to ask God to help you get over that, and see yourself the way he sees you)
Why do you think we have all the conflict and unrest we see in the world? Why war? Why violence? Why hate? Why unrest? Why walls?
Because we always (or often) only see our neighbours as ‘other’ and not ‘us’.
The word ‘Yourself’ in this scripture is really important!!! It changes everything.
Leviticus & Neighbouring?
We often hear the challenge to be a better neighbour and go right to Jesus and the gospels. Like we just did. Rightfully so, Jesus made that audacious claim about loving God & Others.
However, Jesus takes both the first part of his statement (Love God) and the second part (Love your neighbour) from the OT.
First one is from Deuteronomy 6.
The second? Leviticus. Of all the places to narrow down your most important commandment? Leviticus? Other than numbers, it might be the toughest (and most boring) book to read in the bible.
But…this is in fact where Jesus draws his words:
We read lots about neighbouring in the Leviticus:
- 18:20 No sex with your neighbours spouse (not PG, sorry, but still in the Scriptures)
- 19:13 don’t fraud your neighbour
- 19:15 judge your neighbour fairly
- 19:16 don’t endanger your neighbour
- 19:17 be honest with your neiughbour
- 19:18 Love your neighbour as yourself
It’s important to note the context of Leviticus: this neighbouring is about those who are close by (Israel as a nation and community). There are many scriptures about the foreigner and the alien and the refugee (more on that in the coming weeks), but here, it’s about the people who live close to you.
This begs the questions…
Who are the closest to you?
Who is it that you do life with most?
Who are the ones most effected by your decisions, your actions, your behaviour?
Start there! No really, start becoming a better neighbour with the people who are closest to you.
Be a neighbour first to the people who are the closest.
Here’s the thing, if you can’t be a neighbour to them, how can you be a neighbour to those who are different than you? Who are far from you?
Other interesting instructions
Exodus 12:4 – share what you have with your neighbour if what you have is too much for you
Exodus 20:17 – don’t say false things about your neighbour
Exodus 22:26-37 – return what you borrow from your neighbour
Proverbs 25:17 – Don’t be in your neighbours home too much. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing
Proverbs 27:14 – Even nice and lovely things, said too early in the morning, becomes a curse to your neighbour
Proverbs 14:21 – You can be as kind as you want to your neighbour, it will always be welcomed
TAKE HOME :
Neighbouring takes thoughtfulness & action; wisdom & patience.
- All those practical bits of wisdom from Exodus, Leviticus, and Proverbs are helpful.
- Just like every other role we play, husband, friend, wife, dad, leader…we are getting better at those things, we can be getting better at neighbouring.
- Here’s a statement to adopt, ‘I am becoming a neighbour’.
Law Fades / Love Stays
- In Mark & Luke Jesus turns the religious leader’s understanding of Moses’ law on it’s head…it’s not about how neat and tidy you follow the Law, rather, it’s how lavishly you can live out God’s love.
- As you look back to the OT you start to see what was going to stick and what was going to fade. Remember this, Law Fades / Love Stays
Neighbouring begins at Home
- As we move on in this series we’ll see how far and impactful this neighbouring thing really is
- But first…remember that neghbouring starts where you are…with who’s near you
- your close circle
- behind closed doors
- Less Attention = Bigger Impact
- We have this all wrong when focus on big attention, which might only bring little impact.
- One of the questions you may want to start your day with are, ‘What can I do for _____________ today?’. Ask this about your wife, husband, kids, friend, co-worker, etc. Who knows what God can do with that kind of loaded question.
Accepting the invitation from Jesus to be a neighbour will challenge you, but it will also change you.
So…Won’t you be my neighbour?
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(Quotes from the big screen on Sunday)
“Who is my neighbour?” irrelevant to Jesus, for whom everyone, even your enemy, is a neighbour. The only question is, “What does neighbourly mean?” (L. Sweet)
There is a story behind every person, a reason why they are the way they are. Don’t be quick to judge. Be kind and assume the best. (Nicky Gumble)
Nationalism defines neighbours. The gospel doesn’t give us that permission. We don’t define neighbour by street, block or town.
Not too many people want to actually talk, they only want to tell. If you want to talk, you have to be able to listen.
Learn to be present with others.
Make eye contact.
Ask a thoughtful question.
Don’t interrupt with your story.
Listening for pain & joy
Behold the meaning. (Dan white Jr.)
The biblical test case for love of God is love of neighbour.
The biblical test case for love of neighbour is love of enemy. (Zhahn)
People may hate us because of Jesus, but they should never hate Jesus because of us.
Love your neighbours. Not the neighbours you pick out, but the ones you have.