By: Tim Sader
Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. (Romans 15:2)
While being manager of ThornHead our friend Joseph went through some relationship problems and took a step back from the BH. His sister Erica fell for Roger and they were dating; it drove a wedge between Joseph and him. At home the Whitlock house was falling apart relationally between their parents and it ended in them moving out of the house next door. When they moved I had no idea what kind of neighbors we would get and if we would get to know them like we did the Whitlocks. Right before they moved out David was in the neighborhood with my friend Steven and his family was looking for a place to live. A few days after Whitlocks moved out Jamie and Natalie Rodríguez met the owner and after seeing house decided to rent it. Over the next few months we became friends with David when him and Steven would hang out. Soon my brother and I were hanging out at their front steps talking with Jamie about the island where he was born. Their family moved from upstate New York to South Carolina to be near Natalie’s mom, step dad and her sister’s family. Natalie or Nat is from a typical large Italian family and all of them love to cook delicious food. After moving in there once again was always activity at the house next door. David had friends who they would take in under their roof when they had troubles at home. It seemed like a constant flow of family and friends from New York were coming and going all the time. Some people move in and ruin a neighborhood but Rodríguezes moved in and affected every life for the better. No distance was too far for people they knew to move away from home and set up their lives near my new neighbors. When I witnessed this I knew being friends with them would be in my best interest and I was never disappointed. My brother was forty years younger than Jamie but the two of them were the closet of friends.
Rodríguezes impacted my life in an equally positive manner as the Whitlocks. They moved in and were just my neighbor but after almost ten years living there they became family. Their family loves Puerto Rican and Italian food and would get together often to celebrate things and to eat. Usually they would invite us to join the party and we did but if not they would bring us a tray of food. Whenever they cooked we got a big bowl full and sometimes we got the leftovers as well. It wasn’t the lamb in a Jewish feast but whoever came to their house wouldn’t leave there without getting full (Ex. 12:4). Through the years we rejoiced with them in birthdays, holidays and weddings. We also faced the lowest of lows through divorces, hospital stays and the death of friends. When there were parties sometimes people enjoyed drinking a lot of alcohol but it was all fun loving and there was respect for the celebration (Lk. 15:5-6). Everyday wasn’t a party but Jamie and Nat were always there to help or open up their home to the needs of others. If our mom wasn’t home or needed to get away we knew there was help next door who would do anything reasonable we asked. This was them loving their neighbor like themselves and love is worth more than offerings and sacrifice (Mk. 12:33). Jesus tells us to do good by keeping the commandments the greatest of which are loving God and other people (Mt. 19:17-19). Thinking of Nat and Jamie I am reminded of a story Jesus told us. A man was beat up and left for dead; the most righteous walked by but the good for nothing Samaritan had mercy and saw to his every need. The Samaritan was the neighbor because he showed him love and cared for him as if he himself was beat up and in the ditch (Lk. 10:30-37). Having great neighbors made us want to be good neighbors and whenever given opportunity we have been. One goal we should strive to achieve is to please others for their good, to build them up. Loving ourselves is where it starts but in the end love is not about us; it is about making better the lives of others.
Those who are there for us in life may not always be the one that we thought would be there with us. This is why it is important to be a good neighbor to everyone we happen to make contact with in this life. It is by us showing the world the love of Jesus that makes them want to know more about him and how he changed us. There is a sad epidemic of hate alive in the church today to where sometimes the world is more appealing than the church because they treat them better. This needs to change!
Lord help us to love others the way Jesus opened Himself to the world and loved them. He ate at the table with drunks, sinners and prostitutes without being judgmental toward thier misguided ways. There is a generation of none’s in the world today because they are deathly afraid to set foot in church so they have no religion. Lord God help us to reach a culture that doesn’t know you by loving them like we love those we stand shoulder to shoulder with on Sunday morning. Help us to love all our neighbors like we love ourselves. In Jesus name, Amen
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