When Jesus was asked to define a neighbor, He told a story to indicate that anyone in trouble, even someone I don’t like, is my neighbor. This makes loving others a challenge and an action, not an emotion. Today’s verse says it this way. “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” (Romans 15:2) The Greek word for pleasing another person, besides the obvious meaning, is “to accommodate one’s self to the opinions desires and interests of others.” This means love is not a mealy-mouth agreement given merely to avoid conflict, nor is it about emotional warm fuzzies. To love like this requires that I am so focused on what is important to others that my own opinions and desires do not matter.Today I got tested on that love part in italics — and flunked.
The test was simple. I was doing a mindless chore and watching television at the same time. The phone rang, a neighbor wanting to chat. That I could do, with one eye on the complicated plot on the tube, and one hand continuing with my chore. This should have been my first warning. Love gives others full attention.
The caller was someone from my prayer list, a person who does not know Jesus and acts as if her resistance to Him is somehow a virtue. However, today she told me that a childhood friend had died. She sounded sad and perhaps felt like eternity was creeping up on her. For me, this was a test.
Had I not wanted to know the outcome of the TV show, or had I not been watching it in the first place, God may have given me something to say to her. However, my mind was not on her, but on what I wanted — to see what happened in a fiction story — a story that has no eternal value whatsoever. What was I thinking? About me and what I wanted. Yikes.
The worst of it was that I knew, even as I offered condolences, that I should be saying something more profound, but nothing came, likely because I wasn’t prepared to say it anyway. I also could see “test” flashing like a neon sign and still didn’t turn off the tube.
God might give me other opportunities to speak to this neighbor, who is more than that, a friend. I’m hoping that He does. Meanwhile, I’ve some confessing to do about selfishness and my value system. Duh.