"Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." Romans 13:10 (NIV)
Their feud had spilled over on to the rest of us like pot of boiling spaghetti sauce. The anger was splattered everywhere. "What do you mean I can't park my car on the street overnight?!" "But the color I paint my house is my choice." "What do you mean my grass is too tall?" The president of our homeowner's association son and his neighborhood friend were in the midst of a teenage falling out of friendship moment and the mom-mas' feathers were ruffled. The teenage feud turned mothers' fight had morphed into a neighborhood war zone. Neighbor was now pitted against neighbor. Nasty notes were left on cars and front doors. Sides were being taking and battle lines were drawn. You see in Florida we have these organizations called home owners associations and they were created for the purpose of maintaining the property values of the neighborhood by setting rules and guidelines for the outward appearance of all of our homes. We pay monthly dues to make sure we all follow the neighborhood rules. And one of the feuding friends had broken a rule and the presidential mom-ma was going to make sure we all straightened up and cleaned up our acts.
Romans 13: 9-10 tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to do no harm to a neighbor. The feud in our neighbor was doing more harm than good. Relationships were being damaged. Trust was being lost. Passive aggressive behavior flourished. Every conversation was peppered with anger. Yes, our homeowners association had the right to enforce the rules, but in a neighborhood shouldn't talking to each other come first? Maybe if the nasty note leaver had asked me why our car was on the street in the early morning hours, I would have told them it hadn't been out there overnight. I had just moved it to get my car out of the garage to run before 6:00 AM on Saturday. Problem solved. Better yet, what if my neighbor knew me well enough to know I routinely run early on Saturday mornings.
So how do I love my neighbor as myself? First I have to know my neighbor. Do I know what her hobbies are? Do I know where she works? Does she have children? Pets? Is she single or married? To get to know my neighbors I have to spend time outside the walls and comfort of my house. It takes intentional effort beyond the wave from the driveway or mailbox. When my neighbors are outside maybe I need to take a few moments to stop and talk instead of immediately closing the garage door when I get home. Relationships take effort and investment. God calls us to invest in people especially in those who live right next door.
The war eventually ended in our neighborhood when one of the feuding parties moved way. We no longer have to park a car on the street since our boys have moved away. The house, well it still needs painting. And I need to do a better job of getting to know my neighbors.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Help me to love my neighbor as myself. Drive me out of the comfort of my own home into the yard of my neighbor so that I can get to them and love them the way that you do.
Between a husband, 2 sons, and teaching high school my sanity is found in running and Starbucks. I have a circle of running friends who inspire me to be authentic and real as I live a life of faith before them.