We finished our discussion about The Art of Neighboring at Men to Men last Monday and the ladies will finish at their next meeting. The elders recently finished another book, If You Bite & Devour One Another, and the Life to Life leaders and wives are working through it together, too. Being a good neighbor and not biting people is like driving a car and not running over pedestrians; that’s how it should be. Paul connected both behaviors with love in his letter to the Galatians.
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. (Galatians 5:14–15)
Neighbor identifies any one who is next to you, someone on your street and, as was the case in the Galatian church, someone next to your seat. The whole point of the Old Testament can be tweeted with characters to spare and without losing any punch. It’s originally found in Leviticus 19:18 and Jesus called it great (Mark 12;31). Come to think of it, we might prefer the 613 laws in aggregate over this spear tip, then at least we’d have some cover.
In the flesh we do not want to love and build up, we want to criticize and tear down. We prefer sledgehammers over finishing hammers. Solomon said that he who belittles his neighbor lacks sense (Proverbs 11:12), and how much more he who attacks another part of his own body. A part that hits other parts should not be surprised when it becomes the head of the nail. Watch out.
And repent. Other people are not your primary problem. The flesh is your primary problem. A neighbor might sin against you. He probably will. What will you do? If you’re walking by the Spirit, then love will serve him, joy will draw him close, peace and patience will bear with him in kindness and more. It is not freedom to say whatever you want. It is freedom to love your neighbor.