Who is neighbor?

People who rise to success seem to have a similar trait in common. They didn’t give up. You’ve heard this time and time again, over and over. “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” The little engine that could and others . . . Our culture, as many others, are inundated with stories, myths, and fables of those who refused to give up.

Giving up is a result of discouragement, sometimes discouragement comes because we don’t believe that our objective is possible, sometimes it’s because we feel like a failure, and the more effort we put into a thing, the more like a failure we will feel. So in the end, it’s easier to just give up and stop putting in effort. But let me pause for a minute, and switch ideas- I promise I’ll come back.

In Luke 10, we find a fascinating and slightly ironic story of Jesus educating a lawyer on the law. The lawyer starts out with asking about the commandment to love God with all of your ability, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus answers his question that if he does only that, he will be saved. The lawyer then counters,

“Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus answers with the story of the good samaritain. If you’ve never read it, I invite you to read it now. (Luke 10:30-36) At the end of the story, Jesus asks, “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”

Did you notice the difference?

The Lawyer wanted to know who should I love according to the law. “Who is my neighbor?”

Christ answered and asked, “Who was the neighbor?”

The lawyer wanted to know what was required of him. What should I do? What is my duty?

Jesus answers by demonstrating, it’s not about what you’ve done, or what you do- but who you are?

The fascinating principle here, is that even though the law says “love your neighbor” according to Christ, we should understand that to mean, Be someones neighbor. Be a person who loves.

So let us return to our thought of the path to success. Life isn’t about how much you do, or what you can accomplish. It’s not about finding the absolute borderline of your “duty” and going no farther.

Life is about who you become at the end of it.

The secret to success isn’t about doing something and succeeding at it. It’s about being a person who perseveres until they achieve success. Once we have that in mind, failure does not come as often. If you redefine success in this way, it is hard to become discouraged. If you can look in the mirror and know who you are, that you are a person who is better than they were before, then you are a success.

We can’t control the results of our good work, but we can control our determination to continue good work.

Just like that lawyer learned, life isn’t about fulfilling a specific requirements but about becoming a person who fulfills them by nature. Success isn’t mustering up the courage to keep going as much as it being a person who simply lives a life of perseverance because that is who they are.

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Do you have a heart?

Have you ever known someone that was really annoying? They were rude, unsportsmanlike, selfish, and didn’t seem all that intelligent? Perhaps this person did more and more to reduce their value in your eyes. Over time, you didn’t care what that person thought or felt, and pretty soon, you didn’t give one iota about their well being either.

I must confess, I’ve been there. There have been some times that I have had so much disgust for someone that I almost hated them. I honestly believe that this sort of miserable condition is what Proverbs 11:12 is speaking of when it says,

“He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.”

That word despise really carries the meaning of “to value as nothing.” It’s easy to devalue people who don’t treat us the way we want. It’s natural to love less those who disrespect us, but the God has something very profound to say about this. He says that such a person who devalues his neighbor is devoid of wisdom.

But it doesn’t end there. The Hebrew word translated as wisdom, is translated over 500 times as our word “heart.” So let’s put this in a literal way. If you don’t value or love your neighbor, you don’t have a heart.

On the other hand, if you are a person of intelligence and understanding, then you will hold your peace. You will be silent. You will keep the peace. Perhaps you will even love them.

Those are some pretty intense opposites.

I challenge you, search your heart. See if there is someone that you do not value as God values. It is not a healthy thing to harbor feelings or attitudes that do not coincide with God’s view. In case we didn’t get the full picture from this scripture, God spells it out in Proverbs 14:21 when He says, “He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth.”

Don’t allow selfishness and pride reduce you to devaluing another.

Have a heart,

or ask God to give you one.