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Love thy Neighbor talk

1) Purpose – I want to encourage greater unity in the ward and love for those not in the ward

2) Good morning, preparing a talk is horribly damaging to ones psyche.  It forces one to confront all the nagging inconsistencies in ones life.  So please, listen to the words and what the spirit tells you and I’ll work on fixing my problems along with you.

3) Verse

a) Christ had many verbal jousts with the Pharisees and lawyers.  Once in Luke 10,

b) A certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

c) There are two problems here; first, he really didn’t care about the answer.  He was just trying to catch Christ in a verbal error.  Second, the lawyer treated the proposition of eternal life as a problem in contract law where he wanted the minimum acceptable solution to achieve the reward.
Christ instead of answering his question since he knew that a trap was laid responded by asking
26 “What is written in the (mosaic) law? how readest thou?
27 And he (the lawyer) answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

d) The lawyer again is trying to find the minimal acceptable answer.  

e) At this point, Christ relates the story of the Good Samaritan.  At the conclusion of the parable, Christ asked the lawyer

f) 36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

g) Evidently the hatred of Samaritans was so strong that the lawyer couldn’t speak their name.  

h)   37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

4) Analysis

a) I would like to analyze this scripture a bit.

b) We are commanded to love the Lord “with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind”  That is pretty much everything we have

c) We are commanded to love our neighbor only “as thyself.”  I’ll get back to this later

d) Love

i) There are quite a few definitions of love.  Among them are

(1) Nouns

(a) Deep affection – a mothers love

(b) Spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend – I met my love at a linger-longer

(2) Verbs

(a) To need or thrive on – blueberries love acidic soil

(b) To be inclined toward – I love ice cream

ii) It is apparent though that Christ had a much deeper and action oriented meaning in mind.  

(1) First, Christ told the lawyer to “do thou likewise” in following the Samaritan’s example of action oriented love.

(2) Elsewhere in the scriptures, we are told

(a) John 15: 12-13, 17
12 This is my commandment, That ye alove one another, as I have bloved you.
13 Greater alove hath no man than this, that a man lay down his blife for his cfriends.
•  •  •
17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.

(b) John 21: 15-17
When Simon said “Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.”

(c) Matt. 5: 43-44
44 But I say unto you, aLove your benemies, cbless them that dcurse you, do egood to them that fhate you, and gpray for them which despitefully use you, and hpersecute you;

(d) Rom. 13: 9
Thou shalt not bsteal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not ccovet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy dneighbour as thyself.

(e) Eph. 5: 25
25 aHusbands, blove your cwives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

iii) Words - love, charity, generosity, kindness, concern, forgiveness, compassion, feed, bless, do good, pray for

iv) There are two forms of expression that this love can take.

(1) Physically – King Benjamin said “I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, … such as feeding the hungry, … visiting the sick and administering to their relief.”  Life tends to get us all down at times.  The old, sick, injured, unemployed, and pregnant all need our physical help doing things.

(2) Emotionally –

(a) disagreements and hurt feelings happen.  When Sonia and I have disagreements, we have a strong motivation to forgive and forget.  Outside of a marriage, the bond of love is considerably weaker and can result in lingering damage.  

(b) John Taylor said “… If there be trouble existing between me and anybody else, I would meet them half way, yes, I would meet them three quarters or even all of the way. I would feel like yielding; I would say, I do not want to quarrel, I want to be a Saint. I have set out for purity, virtue, brotherhood, and for obedience to the laws of God on earth, and for thrones and principalities and dominions in the eternal worlds, and I will not allow such paltry affairs to interfere with my prospects. I am for life, eternal lives and eternal exaltations in the kingdom of God.”

(c) As an aside, I have been accused of being less than astute emotionally.  I recognize that and occasionally in a sticky situation, I’ll ask Sonia what the proper course of action is.  If you know you have a weakness find a mentor to model your behavior after.  Christ of course is the ultimate example.  Sometimes though it is helpful to have someone closer to examine how they conduct themselves.

e) The word Neighbor

i) Christ of course expanded this definition to anyone we come in contact with regardless of socio-economic status or race.

f) We read that we must love our neighbor “as ourselves”

i) How much do you love yourself?

(1) You probably have high standards for yourself in at least some of these areas; home maintenance, doing your home teaching or visiting teaching, or visiting your widowed mother.  I’m equally sure that their were times that you let the lawn get a foot high, let not one but two months slip by without making any visits, and missed visiting your mother because it was to difficult to pull away from a big basketball game.  

(2) In these cases, you acknowledge the shortcoming, ask for (and expect) forgiveness and go on with life promising to do better.

ii) Do we apply the same standards in our own life?  If it is the neighbor’s lawn, your home teacher, or your friends that seem a little distance, how do you handle it?

iii) There is a wonderful example that Elder Christofferson gave in the last conference.  He talked of a home teacher that loved his home teaching family equally as much as his own.  -  “One day Brother Johnson noticed that our family had no kitchen table. He appeared the next day with an odd-looking but very functional table that fit nicely against the trailer wall across from the kitchen sink and counters. I say odd-looking because two of the table legs matched the tabletop and two did not. Also, several small wooden pegs stuck out along one edge of the worn surface.”  Bro Johnson had seen a need and fulfilled it as best he could by cutting his own table in half.

5) Motivation to obey commandment

a) Obviously, the ideal is that we “go and do as the Lord commands” without any other reason.  

b) All of us though are a little weak at times and it feels good to have corroboration.  

c) Of course, the Lord gives us commandments for our benefit and these following benefits are at least part of the reason for the commandment.  

d) First, Selfishness demands it

i) Elsewhere Christ gave us what we call the Golden Rule

ii) We attract people like ourselves and find ourselves in jobs and situations for which our character and temperament suits us.  If we want to surround ourselves with selfish, vindictive people the surest way it to be one ourselves.  I’m assuming that most of us far prefer to be surrounded with kindness, gratitude, and concern for our well being.  The surest and only way to find these people is to be exhibit these characteristics ourselves

e) Second, because loving thy neighbor is the most effective way to do good in the world

i) Giving to fast offerings, the Red Cross, or a scholarship fund is a fine use of money and time.  However, these institutions are blind to many of the communities problems, take time to address the problems, and in the case of most charitable institutions, they have a financial overhead.

ii) If you know of a problem, you can deal with it faster and better in most cases than any institution can.  In addition, you will derive much more satisfaction from your act than writing a check would ever provide.

f) Finally, we should love our neighbor because there is a great deal of misery in the world that we do not know of.  Simple compassion would want us to not hurt someone who is already hurting.  However, we don’t and can’t know who is hurting.  It is far better to risk treating someone “to nicely” than risk offending someone who is low in spirits because of a hidden event.

6) Continuum

a) Loving your neighbor is not a binary proposition where you either do or do not love them.  It is a continuum over a wide range of possible behaviors from the worst that Satan would applaud to the best that follow in Christ’s footsteps.

b) Just for illustration purposes, lets imagine the following two case studies

i) Relief Society sister that gossips too much and has said some damaging things.  She has divided the Relief Society into two camps and some people would rather not participate than be faced with her.

ii) Next door neighbor, who plays their music to loud, doesn’t maintain their property and generally makes living next to them unpleasant.

c) Worst case is instead of loving our neighbor, we actively work against them.  We lie, gossip, physically fight them and damage their property.  

i) In the case of the RS sister, she divided the ward, but you build the walls a little higher by refusing to associate with her and her group.  You gladly share any bit of gossip that comes along about her.  After all, you justify, she started it and deserves everything she gets because she is so mean.

ii) With your neighbor, you play your music even louder than they do to drown them out and through your continual criticism, encourage your children to be mean to their children.

d) Neutral

i) Most of us probably fall somewhere around the middle.  We have good intentions and sometimes fulfill them.  Other times, we let our tongue get the best of us.  It works out that we are about average.

ii) In 1857, a famous preacher, Charles Spurgeon commented on being neutral, not hurting anyone, but not doing much to help them either.  He said:

iii) But, now, what am I to do to my neighbour? Love him —it is a hard word—love him. "Well I believe," says one, "I never speak an unkind word of any of my neighbours. I do not know that I ever hurt a person's reputation in my life. I am very careful to do my neighbour no damage. … My dear friend, that is right as far as it goes, but it does not go the whole way. It is not enough for you to say, you do not hate your neighbour, you are to love him. When you see him in the street it is not sufficient that you keep out of his way, and do not knock him down. It is not sufficient that you do not molest him by night, nor disturb his quiet. It is not a negative, it is a positive command. It is not the not doing, it is the doing. Thou must not injure him it is true, but thou hast not done all when thou hast not done that. Thou oughtest to love him.

iv) With our RS sister and problem neighbor, you just avoid the problem as much as possible.  A cease fire seems to be your goal where no one gets hurt any more, but nothing is getting better either.

e) Best case is to follow the Lord’s example, invoke the Lord’s power, and watch miracles happen.  

i) Here, you have incorporated those words; love, charity, generosity, kindness, concern, forgiveness, compassion, bless, and goodness in your life.

ii) Quoting again from Spurgeon - And now some one here may say, "Sir, I can not love my neighbour, you may love yours perhaps, because they may be better than mine, but mine are such an odd set of neighbours, and I try to love them, and for all I do they do but return insult." So much the more room for heroism. Wouldst thou be some feather-bed warrior, instead of bearing the rough fight of love? Sir, he who dares the most—shall win the most; and if rough be thy path of love, tread it boldly, and still on, loving thy neighbours through thick and thin. …if they be hard to please, seek not to please them, but to please thy Master, and remember if they spurn thy love, thy Master hath not spurned it, and thy deed is as acceptable to him as if it had been acceptable to them.

iii) The case studies I gave are difficult.  I don’t know what the Lord’s method for resolving them would be.  But as Charles Spurgeon said, we are not loving our neighbors for their sake, but for the Lord’s sake.  And, the Lord loves both us and our neighbor.  He knows what our neighbor needs if we are willing to ask.

iv) Long ago and far away, there was a sister who did gossip and divide the Relief Society of our ward.  For whatever reason, we were on her cool group list and had an opportunity to get to know her.  The more I got to know her, the harder it was to resent the damage she caused.  Instead, I found myself feeling sorry for her and having compassion.  She didn’t gossip out of a desire to hurt people, but in a misguided sense of fun and to paper over the hurt she was feeling.  

v) Unfortunately, Sonia and I fell mostly into the neutral camp.  We didn’t antagonize the situation and even worked around the periphery to remediate some of the damage.  But, we didn’t do much to make it better either.  As I said, I don’t know what the correct response should have been, but the Lord knew what her problem was and what we could have done to help.  How much better off she and that ward would have been with a little love in the right places.

7) Bishop’s talk of several months ago

a) Hopefully I’m remember the essence of it correctly

b) Concern that attendance was dropping

c) Not concerned with the numbers, but their indication that people were falling away from the Lord

d) He pleaded with us to reach out to those not participating

8) Stats

a) 400 or 500 that live in the ward boundaries

b) Only 200ish come

c) The rest are not enjoying the blessings of worship.

d) Loving our neighbors is the primary way to change that

9) Ways to love our neighborhood neighbors

a) Know their names

(1) Reduces barrier between people

(2) It is far easier to feel love for someone whom we know.  When we know someone, we feel compassion for them and sense their needs.

b) Make excuses to interact with them

i) Legitimate needs that provide service opportunities

ii) An “extra” plate of brownies or loaf of bread

iii) Common concerns such as a damaged fence or sharing a tool purchase

c) Follow the spirit to fulfill their needs

10) Testimony

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