“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” James 1:2
It sounded so good when I said it. So I am a pastor/teacher which means I get to tell people about the Bible and how they should do this and do that. I really enjoy teaching and the truth is life is just better when we follow what the Bible says. It really is so much more than a rule book. It tells us all about God but it also gives us His guidelines for living. I have discovered that when I follow what it says, my life has fewer regrets and smaller consequences. Trust me, it works.
The bottom line is talking is easier than doing. It is one thing to stand up before a bunch of people and teach something and quite another to do it. We call it “easy preaching and hard living” and that is especially true when it comes to living, working and dealing with people. That is probably why the Bible talks a whole lot about loving people. Its pretty amazing but you can sum up a whole bunch of the Bible with four words…love God…love people. That may be only 17 letters but they are filled to the brim with impact.
I talked about loving your neighbor as yourself a couple of week ago. Oh, man, did it go well. I talked about loving people like Jesus loves us and how if we experienced love from Him we should be willing to share that same love. Yup…it preached really good. I know I left church ready to love the world. For example, imagine this.
Let’s pretend, you know, hypothetically speaking, there was a family that bought a house in a quiet, historic neighborhood. Imagine that one of the residents welcomed the new neighbors and told them how glad they were to have them in the neighborhood. Then a day or two later the old neighbors began hearing a very loud, very large dog barking and realized it was coming from the direction of the new neighbors. Apparently, they had a big dog who wasn’t happy and decided to let his displeasure be known…to the whole world.
Well, now imagine that one neighbor talked to another neighbor and it was decided that someone should talk to the new neighbor about the situation. So one of the neighbors went down and very kindly asked if they could maybe encourage their dog to not bark quite as loud or often. The new neighbors were very understanding and said they would keep the dog inside more. Wouldn’t that kind? All the neighbors decided that these neighbors were gonna be easy to love.
Then, imagine that a cat just shows up in the other neighbor’s yard and it belonged to the new kids on the block. And, horror of horrors, it is looking for breakfast and on the menu is bird…the neighbor’s birds. So, let’s pretend that old neighbor goes down and asks the new neighbors to please keep their precious kitty at home. Well, they were nice but said the cat couldn’t stay inside because it wouldn’t use the litter box. Hmmmm…wouldn’t that be…shall we say…more difficult.
Then, and remember this is all hypothetical, the new neighbors decided one dog was not enough so they added two full grown German shepherds and another large “I’m not sure what it is” dog for a total of four. Then imagine that these dogs are a tight knit group meaning when one barks they all bark…a lot. So as a result, if all this were real, the nice, quiet historic neighborhood wouldn’t be quite as quiet as it was. I bet the old neighbors would have to do a lot of learning about patiently, loving neighbors. They would probably realize that Jesus stuff can be quite challenging.
Well, of course, this is all just hypothetical but the truth is when Jesus walked the earth for those three years, it often wasn’t easy for Him either. But regardless of who and what…He loved people and He told His followers that they were to do the same. As Jesus followers we are not only to love when it is easy…we are to love period. We are to love our neighbor…even those hypothetical ones with large dogs who like to bark…a lot. We are to love our neighbor, even the hypothetical ones, who might have a cat that likes to eat birds…our birds. We are to love our neighbors…period. No if’s, no and’s and no but’s.
James, the half-brother of Jesus told us that we should count it joy when we have trials. A preacher I know (that would be me) is going to say in an upcoming sermon that the orchard where patience and love grow is often difficult but the fruit is oh so sweet. And that is the truth. So, not hypothetically, I’m going to do my best to love my neighbor. You see, we need to make sure that they know we love Jesus and because we love Jesus…we love them. Is it going to be challenging? Absolutely but if I understand the Book correctly, we don’t have to go it alone. He’s got this.