Deuteronomy 21-23: Neighborly Responsibility

Being responsible not just for yourself and your own family, but also for your neighbors, is a theme that runs through these chapters.  Find your neighbor’s animal?  Take care of it until the neighbor returns for it, or return it if you know to whom it belongs.  See your neighbor’s animal fall to the ground?  Help him get it back on its feet.

The message is clear: we are to be involved with our neighbors.  This is hard to do in a garage door society. It is entirely possible that I can go at least a week without speaking to even one of my neighbors.  We pull our cars into our garages, shut the door, and live our separate lives.

But there are times when our lives intersect in ways that give us a clear sign that the Lord is calling us to do the responsible action.  When a tornado roared through our neighborhood three years ago, neighbors went around house to house checking to see that everyone was okay.  I was grateful for the sense of community, particularly since my husband was out of town that night.  When the day dawned, we helped each other pick up broken scraps of fences and wooden play structures that had been ripped apart.  We brought food to the men who worked as a team, pulling down debris and carrying it to the curb.  It was a beautiful time of neighbors taking care of neighbors.

So many times, though, there are internal tornados in our neighbors’ homes that we don’t see.  The other day, three police cars were at the home of one of my neighbors.  I do not know the family well; I said a “drive-by prayer” and went on with my business.  Now I am second guessing my inaction.

Today in my haste to get through the grocery store, I accidentally bumped a woman in the arm.  I apologized profusely, and she was extremely gracious…but I was in the wrong.  I tried to squeeze through a space I should not have attempted.  I was in a hurry; my thoughts were completely centered on MY time and MY errand and MY list of things that our family needed.  I was not in a neighborly frame of mind.

“Lord, would you come and remind me to be neighborly?  Would you help me slow down long enough to really see the people around me?”

I realize that these rules regarding responsibility can be summed up in one word: love.  Jesus said for us to love our neighbors as ourselves…if I do that, being neighborly will come naturally.

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