Saturday, December 8, 2012

Loving the Neighbor Whose Dog Poops In Your Yard

It's funny.  It's easy to be resentful, greedy or envious and we can stay our same, wonderful selves when we justify it.

  • I can't be forgive her, you don't know what she did to me.
  • I can't love him, he doesn't treat you like he does me.
  • I can't pray for her, she has more than I do.
  • I can't be honest and repay the store, it was their fault they didn't charge me enough.
  • I can't give to them, they believe and live lies.

We can always justify incorrect actions on our part when something doesn't sit right with us about another human.  It's convenient to withhold grace and love when people don't act or live the way we think they should.

But God doesn't give us an "out."  He demands we offer forgiveness and grace in every situation, with every person.  He doesn't say, well, not if you got your feelings hurt.  No, you must love your neighbor, even when his dog poops in your yard.

Yes, it's hard to pray for someone we believe is being selfish.  Yes, it's hard to love someone who steals from us.  Yes, it's hard to give when we feel depleted.  Yet, we must.

(Now, of course, we all know that boundaries must be set up with dangerous people, and certain people cannot be in our lives--I would never let a sexual predator near my family--and we remember that forgiveness does not mean forgetting, and that it benefits the forgiver not the one forgiven.  All that has been talked about ad nauseum, so no need to rehash it here.  I mention only to keep perspective.)

All this difficult toil is necessary for our own well-being.  We don't have to put ourselves into unnecessarily difficult situations, but we do have to offer our best to everyone.  That's what differentiates us from those who would rather wallow in the misery of selfishness, greed and anger.  Shun these things and peace can be found.  Pray for those who are astray, and happiness can be achieved.  Love those that hate, and find contentment.

I want to find reasons why I can't be generous or loving.  I want to lash out at those who persecute me.  I want to find fault with others' boasts and diminish them.  I want to hate my neighbor that allows his dog to poop in my yard.  That's my flesh, desiring the hatred and self-elevation that brings a rush of adrenaline and excitement--momentary satisfaction but with long-term misery.

God knows the best for us is a positive attitude and a positive view of others.  That's why He implores us time and again to love others as ourselves.  We mask our own failings when we acknowledge the faults of others.  Something about a speck and a plank, I believe?  It's not for us to judge, but for God.  He'll take care of what needs to be done, we just need to keep on living well regardless.  

Because, let's face it, we are sinners and other people are sinners.  Only one perfect man walked the earth and he beat death.  People will fail us.  People will frustrate us.  People will drive us bonkers.  But, love them, we will.  (Too Yoda-esque?)

God instructs us to love, to forgive, to offer up prayers for others not based on our own ideas of necessity or entitlement, but on God's.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  
~Ephesians 4:29-32

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