Posted by: pastortomvabeach | February 18, 2010

Thought for the Week February 21, 2010

We lost a very dear friend this week. The next door neighbor to our church, Mr. Paul Chandler, passed away on Monday from the effects of liver cancer. I just returned from his funeral where I was privileged to get to share some personal reflections about a friendship that has grown over the nearly 20 years Christian Chapel has been next door.

As I thought about what I would share, I was reminded of something the Lord showed me when I was preparing for last Sunday’s service. That day, Valentine’s Day, the message focused on what was necessary to really establish and maintain healthy and satisfying relationships. It seems the same principles apply to strong marital relationships that apply to any friendship or even casual acquaintance. It all boils down to the second commandment – Love your neighbor as yourself.

The idea here is that we exercise greater concern for the needs, interests, and desires of others than we do for our own. This principle is expressed in so many ways in the Scripture. Not only did Jesus tell us that this is the second greatest commandment, but Paul declared in Galatians 5:14, All the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul is saying that if we’ll just make this our defining commandment, we’ll be keeping every other commandment God ever gave. That’s something to ponder.

When asked by a lawyer who wanted some sort of checklist of how to keep the second commandment, Jesus simply answered with a parable about a man (the good Samaritan) who exhibited all of the qualities of a good neighbor. Then He told the lawyer, “Just go and be a good neighbor, and you’ve got it.” Luke 10:37 (my paraphrase). When teaching about the final judgment, Jesus said this would be the criteria by which one would receive rewards, “I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” He then clarified how these deeds were accomplished by saying, “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me.” Matthew 25:35-40

These words of Jesus underscore the importance of loving others above ourselves. As far as He is concerned when we put others before ourselves we are loving Him and reversing that thought, when we choose to put ourselves first and refuse to show love and put our neighbors first, we are taking that action against Him (see Matthew 25:45).

This leads us to a logical conclusion. If loving my neighbor is, essentially, loving Jesus, then I literally prove that I am keeping the first commandment, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37), by keeping the second. This has profound implications for marriage, parental relationships with children, relationships among siblings, intimate and casual friendships, and relationships even with total strangers. When we act lovingly towards others, we are doing it towards our Lord Jesus. When we don’t do that, we are turning our hearts away from Him. We would do well to seriously consider all of our lives in view of this.

Back to our neighbor, Mr. Chandler. These thoughts filled my heart as I remembered all of the times over the years that he has proven to be more than a good neighbor. This man, a Christian since 1951, was always cheerful, always helpful, always generous, and always humble. He truly cared about us, helping us many times with work projects, sharing the bountiful harvest of vegetables from his garden, offering space in his driveway for extra parking, and simply sharing his life with the church next door. During his last eight years of life, he gave one day a week to serve the Seafarers Ministry at the Norfolk Port Terminal, spreading love and spiritual light to mariners often long distances from home.

I don’t know if you ever met Mr. Chandler, but I want to let you all know that he was the best of neighbors. I told those gathered today that when we found this property, two miracles occurred. First, we saw the “For Sale” sign buried in the ditch along Salem Road. And second, our neighbors were the best people we could ever desire. If you ever see Mrs. Chandler outside, please you take a moment to greet her and let her know we love her and loved her husband, our good neighbor. Perhaps we can give back some love by serving her in the coming days.

What about you? Could you look at your life and honestly say that you have been a good neighbor? Do you put the interests of those next door above your own? What about the interests of family members, your spouse, your co-workers, the clerk at the supermarket? Remember, Jesus said that when we extend ourselves to the “least of these” we are doing it to Him. What do you need to do with the second commandment? Just a thought.

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