How NOT To Love Your Neighbor

July 1, 2019 | by eric basye

I have a neighbor; I'll call him "John." In thinking about an inner-city setting, John fits the ghetto stereotype well – the house is in poor condition, the yard is unkempt, toys are strewn about the yard, lots of people are in and out of the house, and yes, lots of dogs… pit bulls nonetheless! This is the same home where a few months back there was a drive-by shooting late in the night. Fortunately, it was not fatal, though a young 17-year-old man was shot in the chest.

In seeking to be a good neighbor, one of the things Shelly and I attempt to do is to literally beautify our street. How do we do this? Well, we’ve done things like take an old, burned out house and transformed it into a beautiful home. We water and mow the lawn, landscape and seasonally plant flowers. These are just some of the ways that Shelly and I have sought to change the appearance of our community. The hope is that as we take pride in our home and our street, this will encourage the neighbors to do likewise. For the most part, I would say this has been an effective model.

But here is a problem, how do you genuinely love your neighbor when their way of living infringes upon your home, your life, and what you deem to be valuable in a community? How should we respond to prostitution, drug dealing, and drive-by shootings?

This morning my frustration was trying to figure out what to do about the pit bulls that run free in our neighborhood and in our yard. Today I did what I think most people in America would do – I called animal patrol. Within minutes they arrived in front of my neighbor’s house as they questioned him about his dogs and told him that a neighbor was fed up with his pit bulls running free. Looking outside the window, I knew that I had done the wrong thing by calling animal patrol. Immediately my heart was convicted as the words love God and love my neighbor as myself were brought to mind. His law superseded any rights I felt I had as a neighbor of John.

Feeling much conviction and guilt in my heart, thus shame in how poorly I had "loved" my neighbor, I packed up the kids and headed out the door to avoid facing John. While in the car, Elijah asked me what was wrong, and I told him that I was frustrated with myself for I had done a poor job of loving my neighbor. In our time of being out of the house, and through prayer, I came to the conclusion that I had to go confess my sin to my neighbor, ask for his forgiveness, and address the problem in a way that I believed was honorable.

My conclusion was this: as a neighbor of South 31st Street with two small children, I have every right to be frustrated and concerned with pit bulls that run free in the neighborhood, especially in my yard. However, rather than dealing with the problem as I did and calling animal patrol to do my dirty work, shouldn't I have lovingly confronted my neighbor, addressed my concerns, and then offered to assist in bringing about a solution? How do I truly love my neighbor if all I do is point out another person’s flaws? Is not the right way to point out our shortcomings also through love, mercy, and grace to help us deal with our own imperfections?

After feeding the kids’ lunch, I headed outside and knocked on John’s door. I asked him if he had a minute to talk. I then proceeded to tell him that I was the person that called animal patrol (something he was not pleased to hear), that I had been a poor neighbor, and I said I was sorry and asked for his forgiveness. I then did what I should have done in the first place… I offered a lending hand to help resolve with the situation. Tomorrow I’m heading to Lowe’s to by 2x4s to help my neighbor make a pen for his dogs, something he has wanted to do but has not been able to do. Isn’t this what it means to love my neighbor?

Originally printed in the July 2019 issue of Simply Family Magazine

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