Love Thy Neighbour

Hello Neighbor” (Fred Rogers)

Many of us remember those famous words from the humble yet wildly popular daytime children’s program called, “Mister Rogers Neighborhood.” The program aired for 31 seasons! (1979-2001 approx.) I mean no disrespect to Fred Rogers, but being a good neighbour is an idea that is as old as civilization itself. “Love thy neighbour” stands as a cornerstone teaching in both Judaism and Christianity, quoted by Moses and Jesus Christ. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that all major religions have this high ideal as a core tenet of their belief system (whether or not we achieve it, as we all hope, is another matter).

Fred Rogers captured the simplicity of Jesus’ teaching in one single reminder: you have to speak to your neighbour in order to be a good neighbour. It’s one of my beefs with living in Mississauga (any major city for that matter). People don’t speak to each other as much as one would hope. I’m a bit weary of the slogan “we’re all in this together” while, for the most part, neighbours don’t even acknowledge each other. It’s not uncommon to be out walking or jogging in my neighbourhood and observe most people staring at the ground rather than offering a smile or a “hello neighbour.” It’s too sad. Try greeting someone at Square One and they will either ignore you or look annoyed. Occasionally, someone smiles back. 

 

This teaching to “love thy neighbour” goes way beyond a simple “hello.” You have to make time to build relationships, and relationships begin by caring for others, as we have the opportunity to do so. Caring about others should be relatively easy for the Christian because we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit who pours God’s love into our hearts. Remember the simple order of the greatest commandment? “Love the Lord your God” and “love your neighbour as yourself.” The fuel for being a good neighbour is loving the Lord with all your life.

If the aim is to “love thy neighbour” in sincere relationship, I have to give you a simple warning. Relationships are greatly hindered when we label, judge or become argumentative over politics, religion and current events. Leave lots of room for your neighbours to feel safe in expressing their opinions in your presence.

Now to the hard part and the really high standard. The goal of being a good neighbour is to live as if Jesus is the one who lives in your house. Bold? Yes. Difficult? Yes. Intimidating? Yes, yes, yes. But the New Testament says that we are to live in this world as if we were Jesus, “because as He is so also are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). We are to walk as He walked, i.e., live our lives as He modeled. We are to love as He loves by being the kind of neighbour Jesus would be if He now lived in my neighbourhood.

We are blessed as Christians to have the Lord Jesus Himself elevate the core belief that we are to be good neighbours as He did. It makes perfect sense to me that one can’t really be a good neighbour and never talk about the subject of Jesus, who He is, what He came to do and the fact that He is coming back again (to name a few).

Church family, be the best neighbour you can be by sharing the good news that eternal life is promised by faith in the Son of God. Share the Gospel as God opens the door to your neighbour’s heart. “Love thy neighbour” as He loved you into salvation by faith.

Agape,

Pastor Deric

 
P.S. I’m quite sure that ‘policing’ your neighbour is NOT advisable in loving your neighbour. The burden of enforcing a by-law is not meant, nor is it wise, to be placed on fellow citizens, especially in a non-military crisis.


My Prayer for the Honourable Omar Alghabra

Our Mississauga Centre MP, the Honourable Omar Alghabra, called me one day recently to ask about how we are doing as a church. We talked for over an hour. He is genuinely interested in the well-being of the citizens in his local riding. We’ve had several talks during which it was evident that he is a good man, serving all Canadians with unbiased concern. We have different perspectives on various matters, but we act like adults about it. I secretly long to see the kind of relationship that he and I share in our local, provincial and national dialogue. But that’s not the point of my blog today.
 
I was blessed to be able to tell him that our church family has stepped up to support their church during the pandemic. I’ve never been more thankful for my church family as I am right now. The pandemic has been teaching me many good lessons. I’ve never been more convinced of the vital role the church plays in the world. I’ve never been so sure of the crucial place that the church plays in the life of the Christian. I’ve never been more encouraged by the place that every Christian plays in the life of the Church.
 
I also promised Omar that I am praying for him. And I mean it. One of my daily seasons of prayer is to intercede for the world around me. It seems quite basic to me that I share a planet with others who hold different views from me. So, in the words of the New Testament, “as much as it lies in your power, get along with others.” That is God’s design according to the Christian worldview. He created the diversity of the world for us to enjoy, to share and to protect.
 
And one of the ways that we are to engage the world around us is in praying “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1 Timothy 2:2). I sometimes pray for whole countries. But most often I pray for publicly elected officials in my city, my province and my country. I do so as a matter of obedience but also with pleasure. I want my world to be a better place. I want peace and prosperity for my fellow citizens. And the Bible teaches that my best vote is cast in prayer.
 
What do you think I should pray? That they would lose? I don’t think so. It seems fitting to me that I pray for the reason(s) that the Bible details. I pray that they will have a mind and heart to serve and protect the people whom they represent. I also pray that they will be safe and sound as they do so. The result of praying for our elected officials is that we reap the benefit of living a “quiet and peaceful life, godly and dignified in every way.” Why not send your elected officials a note that you are praying for them during this difficult time? Assure them that you are praying for their well-being and for the good of our region.
 
It’s astounding to me that when Paul wrote those words in the first century, he himself was a prisoner of the oppressive and cruel Roman government. He was ultimately killed by the Roman government. This commandment to pray for “all who are in high positions” has always been the guiding principle of my personal, political views. RESPECT those who rule over me, however benevolent or malevolent.
 
Let me leave you with a striking passage to consider in these politically raucous times, written by the Apostle Peter himself: “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honour everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the emperor.” (1Peter 2:13-17)
 
Here’s a simple formula to add to the peace and dignity of your daily life: Honour everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the emperor!
 
Praying with you and for you church family

Pastor Deric