As I write this morning, my heart has been humbled by my Bible reading from the past 2 days. I have seen myself from someone else’s eyes and it’s not a pretty sight. While I thought I was being a good Christian, I can see now that I have been a Judgy McJudgerson. Have I tried to be that way? Not at all and that’s why I have been humbled so much. While I thought I was doing a good job of living out my faith, of being salt and light to the world, I have had some huge logs in my own eyes. To be clear, this is not about anything going on in the national or international news. Not about a human rights issue, gay marriage, legalizing marijuana, black lives vs blue lives, or the presidential race. This is about people in my walk of life. My family, my friends, my neighbors, etc…
I have been going through a reading plan that is put together by someone other than myself. It is tying the Old and New Testaments together and I have truly enjoyed it since I started last January. I use the You Version app on my phone and it was a plan on there. If you’ve never explored the You Version Bible app, I recommend it highly. They have many different reading plans. Some are for a few days, weeks, months, or like the one I chose, a year’s plan. There are many features I like about it. You can read the Bible right on your phone, you can highlight verses, add notes, share them with others or social media and probably many more features I’m not remembering now. It brings you a verse of the day everyday. So if you don’t have time for anything other than that, at least you’re getting one verse to ponder. You can find this at Bible.com
We went on vacation last week. For 6 days we were away from home, eating out, sleeping in a different bed, driving several miles, and seeing sights we’re not normally exposed to. Of course, prior to any vacation, you have prep time. While we didn’t take a lot of prep time, our trip was pretty last-minute, I did have a few things to prepare. All this to explain that I didn’t get my regular Bible reading done every morning before we left. I thought I did, but upon returning I found about 3 days that I had neglected to complete. Surprise. That, coupled with the days we were gone that I also didn’t complete it and I’m behind several days which I’m now scrambling to catch up on. The past few mornings the readings have been in the 4 gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and as you may know, much of those contain Jesus’ teaching in His words. So much goodness and truth. And God has been speaking to me as I read.
Yesterday the reading was on loving your neighbor, loving your enemy, doing good to those who do evil to us. I have been using The Message version which is put into language you can understand. Sometimes, it’s language you can’t ignore. Ha. Matthew 5:38-42
“Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.”
Sometimes people have neighbors that are easy to love. Or maybe they just make it seem that way. I think there was a reason God gave us the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. Who is harder to forgive and love, people living on the other side of the world, or someone you live with 24/7. Now, I realize that this is not always to be taken literally. That our neighbors include people on the other side of the world. Bear with me please as I explore the literal meaning of the words. Our immediate neighbors have the power to please or irritate us, much like our own families. We’re in the day-to-day with them. Their trash blows in our yards and it’s irritating. They play loud music on their car stereo and park outside your bedroom window at 12 a.m. It’s irritating. They get your mail by mistake and don’t return it for weeks and you miss a payment because of them, it’s really irritating. Without going into specifics, we have some issues with our neighbors that make it hard to love them. And it’s sooo, so tempting to pay them back in kind. As a matter of fact, just yesterday morning I advised my husband to do something about a situation with one of them, that really wouldn’t have been out of line with the world’s way of thinking. In fact, it was perfectly reasonable. Our property had been damaged and I said he should give them a bill for that. That’s not out of line is it? Shouldn’t you be responsible for paying for what you have damaged. The courts would say yes. However, I live under a different justice system and my Judge is one who expects more from me. As I read the above passage from Matthew and further on in the chapter, I was so convicted by these words. That is not at all what my Judge was telling me to do. In fact, just the opposite. They have damaged our property so we should respond with kindness and generosity. They took the shirt off our back, we should be wrapping up our best coat and gifting them with that as well. This is not the logic of the world. This is the love of God, being lived out.
Thankfully, my husband hadn’t acted on my impetuous advice and last night as we lay in bed, I shared with him what the Lord had laid on my heart, reading him the passage from Matthew.
This is not all that God spoke to me about. No, no. I have much learning and growing to do and yesterday and today’s readings have been pretty convicting. So here I go. Trying to love my neighbors. Please pray for me as I try to live out my faith. I certainly need all the help I can get. Now, off to find some wrapping paper…