I’ll tell you who – she’s an annoying old bat who wants nothing to do with you until the day she drops by to tell you how much you’ve ticked her off.
“Hello,” says she. Then with barely a breath between her saying hello and the ensuing plaint,
“Are you the people who are feeding the squirrels? Because they are getting into my plants!”
“That’s too bad”, I says. Apparently she didn’t hear me …
“I have many flowers at the back and the squirrels come and dig up my plants. It’s because you’re feeding them.”
“Have you tried raising your plants off the ground into planters?” I says.
“Yes, and they still get in there!” she moans.
After we suggest a few other rodent-discouraging remedies, Mrs. In-a-you-face then proceeds to gripe for 5 more minutes about her squirrel-affected garden. She ends the spiel with a request that we don’t feed the squirrels any more. My wife and I assure her with pleasant smiles,
“Sorry, we like the squirrels – we don’t plan to stop feeding them”.
And then the old lady walks away in a peevish huff.
Was that unchristian? Were we supposed to turn the other cheek? How would we do that … let me see. We could go and buy her plants to replace any damaged ones. Uh, no. We could not only stop feeding the squirrels, heck! we could put out poison and kill them all – that’d keep the old lady’s plants in pristine condition! No again.
That’s simply not what being Christian is all about.
Being Christian – loving one’s neighbour – has nothing to do with acquiescing to another’s gluttony. Our neighbour (in the literal sense of the word) wanted us to satisfy her selfish interests, her penchants. She didn’t ask us to walk a mile with her (presumably to aid her with something) nor did she ask us for a cloak or coat in order to make her life more livable through keeping her warm.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan (1.), we read of a guy who got taken down by robbers while travelling down a road. In the story, the victim of the assault was a bloodied mess and left without a penny to his name after the incident. After two religious sorts passed by the injured man without as much as a word, a man of Samaritan background came along who didn’t ignore or avoid the injured soul and met all of his needs. The victim needed healthcare and wound-dressing. Done. He needed a place to heal; “Here you go hotel-guy, here’s some cash for a room and for continuing care costs until this dude’s out of your hair”. Going the ‘extra mile’? Done! The Samaritan comes out of this story smelling like roses, and rightly so!
In similar fashion, an opportunity to love our neighbour should stem primarily from our wanting to address serious, life-impacting types of concerns. But if we come to believe that serving the Lord means pandering to others’ selfish wants and tastes, we’ll end up as sycophantic masochists – not martyrs – and that’s really not what Jesus was calling us to do when he said, “love your enemies” or “love your neighbour”.
Paul the apostle, writing to Roman Christians stated, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (2.). In other words, Christians should do whatever it takes to come up with a peaceful or ‘mutually beneficial’ solution but it’s clearly implied that though this is the ideal, sometimes it just isn’t possible.
If Mrs. Squirrel-hater fell down in the parking lot outside her building we wouldn’t hesitate to help her to her feet. If she was short on change at Tim Horton’s we’d cover her whole tab. We relish opportunities to help others in need. But what we don’t have to do is make everyone feel good by giving in to their petty wants. Christians should not be about making people feel good but should be focused on caring for others sincerely whenever the authentic opportunity arises; and that may often mean doing so while carrying our differences, idiosyncrasies and personal disagreements in tow.
What about you? Do you agree? Do you think we should have tried so work out something with our grousing neighbour? How do you go about loving your (literal and figurative) neighbour when differences arise?
© 2013 Flagrant Regard
1. One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question:
“Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”
The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”
The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Parable of the Good Samaritan
Jesus replied with a story:
“A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.
“Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
New Living Translation
2. Romans 12:18, New International Version