Wednesday, June 15, 2016

What DO the Neighbors Think?

     Growing up in a small town has many advantages.  There are close friendships and people in the community often know you by name.  However, one disadvantage comes if you ever do something inappropriate.  It seems like the entire town knows about it or that is what my mother always believed.
     We had very conservative rules in our home and one of them was that no boy was allowed to come for a visit when my parents were not there.  Mother used to say, "What would the neighbors think if they saw a boy at the house while we were away?"  I used to think that was a silly thing.  After all, who cares what someone thinks if nothing wrong is taking place.  Years later, I feel much differently about her words.  We should care what our neighbors think.
     Having a Christian witness in our home, our work and church is very important because people are watching the way we live.  Even our conduct on social media is subject to scrutiny.  Many a careless or unkind word has hurt others that we may not even be aware of.  In our current political climate with all the tragedy we hear about every day, it is easy to be carried away by our emotions and spout off without thinking how it may affect others.
     One of the foremost things we need to fix in our mind is that we are citizens not of this world but of heaven.  As a believer in Christ, we have an allegiance to a King whose kingdom is not of this world.  In His high priestly prayer, Jesus prayed this for believers:  "I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world" (John 17:14-15).  Our values, our ideas and our thoughts need to reflect the truth as found in the Bible which is God's Word to us.  We should not be reflecting the values and ideas of this world.  It is a challenge to live here and uphold biblical truth, but for the sake of God's glory and our witness to others, we simply must.  There will be people that hate us for this outlook.  Yet we need to remember that they hated Jesus Christ for the same reason.
     Secondly our Christian conduct is spelled out over and over again throughout both the Old and New Testament.  Beginning with the Ten Commandments, we are instructed on how to honor God and how to relate with our brother.  Throughout God's Word, we are warned about our conduct.   The Apostle Paul summarizes some important things for us to remember in Ephesians 4:25-30: "Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor for we are members one of another.  Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.  Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.  Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."  Of course, there is much more to see in Chapter 5 as well,  However, the point is that our conduct with and before others does matter.
     Our family relationships, our work interactions and even our church all have a witness to our community.  It begins with us, but grows to include others.  How do we look to our neighbors?  Are we walking in the path of the Holy Spirit and glorifying God in our speech and conduct?  People are watching us to see if we are different than the values reflected by this world.  It is hard to tell others about our Savior if they have seen us speak badly about another person or be dishonest at work.
     In addition, people are even watching our church congregation.  What is our collective witness to the community?  Do we love one another, serve each other and is the Word of God held up as the light of truth?  People are looking for answers not gimmicks.  Having the latest, the greatest, the best, the biggest does not speak as clearly as the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  God's Word will not return void, but all other endeavors fall short.
     Yes our neighbors are watching and it DOES matter what they think if we are trying to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them.  First and foremost, our personal holiness must be cultivated.  Then how our family interacts as they serve the Lord together is an important witness.  Finally, how our church as a whole reflects the glory of Christ in the programs it promotes as well as the Bible that it preaches makes a difference to those outside.  Jesus told us to be salt and light in this world.  When we do that God will be glorified and our neighbors will be blessed.  Selah!

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