I love my job.
I try really hard at it.
Encouraging people. Leading people. Doing my best to help others live a better life.
I preach and teach grace.
Mercy. Compassion. Second chances.
Love, not hate.
But then one day I realized something.
As I drove through my picturesque neighborhood in Maple Valley it finally dawned on me.
I came around the final corner to my house; I passed children walking home from the bus stop and well manicured lawns and hit me.
I hate my neighbors.
I know… It shocked me too.
I looked at the five cars they had crammed into their driveway (designed for two) and the one car parked in the same spot for the last six days and seethed.
My blood pressure rose and I knew I didn’t like them one bit.
I’ve had maybe one conversation with them since they moved in.
I’m sure they’re fine people. I’m upset because of their car situation and it causes me to make all sorts of internal judgments about them.
So what does this make me?
A terrible pastor? Maybe.
A crappy neighbor? Possibly.
More than anything, it makes me a fallen human in need of God’s grace.
When asked by religious experts which law was most important Jesus answered this way:
You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22.37-39, NLT)
I can try hard at work all I want to.
I can lead people. Teach people. Inspire and encourage people.
But if I don’t love my neighbor I’m missing it completely.
1 Corinthians chapter 13 summarizes life without love this way:
I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
I would be nothing.
I would have gained nothing.
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
I don’t know about you, but I have some real work to do.
And it starts next door.