"...even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him for he dwells with you and will be in you." John 14:7
"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." John 14:26
And lately I see Him working in brothers and sisters, teaching us, helping us remember what Jesus said about neighbors.
"And he answered, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.'" Luke 10:27
—At church a few weeks ago, a sermon, "Faith You Can See" by Brian on I Thessalonians 1 was powerful.
—And then Sunday School, Del Tackett and the Truth Encounter which is all about reaching out to neighbors—the ones that live next door.
—And now, Proverbs, our Women's Bible Study,........and my next lecture, in four weeks, to cover the chapter "Words about Neighbors."
When I look in Scripture there are 119 references to neighbor..
and most say, "....love your neighbor...."
And I remember.....
Years ago, back in South Dakota, when Larry was teaching and Greg and Renee were toddlers, a new family moved into a rental, just across the alley—neighbors. I'm a friendly person but when the Spirit said, "Take them some bread......and invite them to church," I rebelled. "Couldn't do that" I whispered, "I mean, they could be..........Muslim............or Catholic.............or Canadian.........or Independents."
But that Voice wouldn't stop for 3 days and my disobedience continued........and my excuses. Finally in desperation I screamed, "OKAY, ALL RIGHT!!! I will make the bread and I will go but You will see, I'm right!"
"Here's some bread I baked......welcome to the neighborhood." I quietly said, with a smile, expecting rejection.
We talked, she wasn't Muslim, or didn't sound that way, whatever that is. She was nice, friendly, and also had two toddlers.......we could be friends, good friends.
Finally, I said it, "Have you found a church yet?"
"No, we haven't. We've visited several, but there are no Baptist churches and that's what we have always gone to."
The air went out of me. I thought, "So YOU knew all along. YOU knew why I was to come and talk to her. Okay, YOU win. Sorry."
Then when I could breathe again, I told her about our church which was a mile away, not Baptist, but like Baptist and they would like it. They came.
Older now, much older, I wonder what my real fear was.......I think I know. If she were any of those "different than me" brands or others I knew nothing about, I wouldn't be able to answer questions if she had them. I was afraid of the unknown....and I didn't want to fail.
"...but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect," I Peter 3:15 ESV
Now I hear over and over about loving my neighbors. Not to love them because of what I want to happen or how I want to change them, but just to love. It means taking bread, or soup, or time, or words to encourage......it means maybe getting involved in messy lives, or being rejected, or even taken advantage of. It also means being open and honest, vulnerable and real. It means letting the steadfast love God has showered on me, filled me with, forgiven me with, letting that same love go out from me to love others. Instead of saying "But!" I will need to say, "I'll go."
And I will prepare by knowing my God well, and trying to understand the world so I do have an answer....and I will, in my God's strength, pray for my neighbor's asking for opportunities to love well no matter who or what they appear to be. Love, real love, love come down for you and me to share with gentleness and respect.
"For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Galatians 5:14