Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Love my neighbour

I very occasionally teach at my local church. It is something that all Christians are encouraged to aspire to. When I do teach I usually quite enjoy it. At least I do now. When I started I got cold sweats and palpitations. (I'm not really sure what palpitations are but they seem to sound like what I experienced ;)

Part of the reason I enjoy it now is that I've developed a style which is much more conversational. I don't believe teaching means I have to stand behind a pulpit and lecture. No, teaching that I benefit from is interactive.

If I'm being taught I like to ask questions. I like to disagree. And when I'm teaching I now encourage discussion and conversation. I find that much more natural (and less scary) and it seems to work better for groups I'm teaching as well.

I used to hand write out what I was going to say: word for word. I will still sometimes write out passages I want to say and aspire to one day be able to memorize and simply be able to confidently speak without referring to notes. But that can wait for a day when I've got time.

I'm teaching tomorrow and all I've basically done is to look up the occurrence of the word neighbour (or neighbor in some versions) in the book of Proverbs. Turns out there are quite a few - though not as many as the word poor but I'll get back to that.

I quite like researching a topic (in case you hadn't worked that out by now) and this seemed like an interesting one. So why did I pick Proverbs? Well - it is one of the easiest ways to get a handle on what God is saying.

Proverbs is called the book of wisdom for a reason. If you've never read the bible it might be worth starting with Proverbs. (I'd recommend Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as the best first books to read but Proverbs is a close fifth...) It always surprises me how much of our every day language comes straight out of the bible and an awful lot is from Proverbs.

Our church is focusing on the concept of love your neighbour this year. It seems highly relevant given the way everybody I know is struggling financially. Our church runs a food bank - Bethlehem House of Bread and there is a consistent need for it.

I often associate Jesus words about loving your neighbour with helping the poor but is that really all he meant? I expected the proverbs about neighbours to be connected to poverty but it turns out that just isn't true. I found four main themes regarding neighbours in Proverbs:
  • Be generous
  • Do unto others as you would have them do to you
  • Persistence can result in change
  • Some neighbors are to be avoided at all costs!
And of those four the vast majority were of the "Do unto others as you would have them do to you" variety. Only two connected with generosity out of eighteen. So, when Jesus said "Love your neighbour" did he have the Proverbs in mind? Certainly, his parable about the good Samaritan can be read that way.

Here are most of those verses:

Be generous
Proverbs 3:28
Say not unto your neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when you have it with you.
Proverbs 14:21
He that despises his neighbour sins: but he that has mercy on the poor, happy is he.

Do unto others as you would have them do to you
Proverbs 3:29
Devise not evil against your neighbour, seeing he dwells securely by you.
Proverbs 11:9
A hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered.
Proverbs 11:12
He that is void of wisdom despises his neighbour: but a man of understanding holds his peace.
Proverbs 24:28
Be not a witness against your neighbour without cause; and deceive not with your lips.
Do not say, “I’ll do to them as they have done to me; I’ll pay them back for what they did.”
Proverbs 25:7-9
What you have seen with your eyes do not bring hastily to court, for what will you do in the end if your neighbor puts you to shame?

Proverbs 26:18-20
Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, “I was only joking!”
Proverbs 27:10
Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family, and do not go to your relative’s house when disaster strikes you - better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away.

Proverbs 27:14
If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse.

Persistence can result in change
Proverbs 6:1-3
My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth.
So do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands:
Go - to the point of exhaustion - and give your neighbor no rest!

Some neighbors are to be avoided at all costs!
Proverbs 16:29
A violent man entices his neighbour, and leads him into the way that is not good.
Proverbs 17:18
One who has no sense shakes hands in pledge and puts up security for a neighbor.
Proverbs 21:10
The soul of the wicked desires evil: his neighbour finds no favour in his eyes.
Proverbs 29:5
A man that flatters his neighbour spreads a net for his feet.

So, the above verses are from Proverbs. They're all connected to the concept of neighbours. I'm not going to tell you what to think about all this - I want you to tell me. So go on, discuss!

[All verses above are copied from Bible Gateway:
King James Version in plain text
NIV in bold
Thanks to Biblica regarding terms of use of copyright for NIV text:
I have paraphrased the KJV to remove thees and thous etc.]

P.S. My Goal 68 is: To have my neighbours round for a meal.
I haven't forgotten!

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