Good Neighbors

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: Romans 12:16-21


I.         Putting off the old man

            A.        When we become a Christian, we are supposed to become a new person - II Corinthians 5:17

            B.        We are supposed to have the mind of Christ - Philippians 2:5

            C.        That isn’t so hard when everything goes well

            D.        But 19th century English novelist, Israel Zanwill, noted, “Scratch the Christian and you will find the pagan.”

                        1.         By this, he meant that all it took for many so-called Christians to “lose their religion” was an irritation

                        2.         When people are hard to get long with, the facade of Christianity become thin

            E.        True Christians are called to better behavior and deeper commitment - Romans 12:17-18

                        1.         When those around us scratch us with their behavior, we want to display more than a think veneer of Christianity

II.        Who is my neighbor?

            A.        A lawyer asked Jesus what was needed to reach heaven - Luke 10:25-28

                        1.         But he didn’t like the implications and asked - Luke 10:29

                        2.         Jesus didn’t answer stating that it was people living within a certain distance of you

                        3.         The Greek word plesion refers to someone nearby. The Jews, however, used the equivalent Hebrew word rea to mean a fellow member of the community, in particular, someone in a covenant relationship with God. Thus, Jews would not regard strangers, Samaritans, or Gentiles as neighbors

                        4.         Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan in response to the lawyer’s question - Luke 10:30

                                    a.         A priest coming that way failed to help - Luke 10:31

                                    b.         A Levite also was indifferent to the man’s needs - Luke 10:32

                                    c.         It was a Samaritan who stopped and helped - Luke 10:33-35

                        5.         Jews had no dealings with Samaritans. He would not have been considered a neighbor - John 4:9

                        6.         Jesus then ask who was the neighbor in the story. The answer was obvious - Luke 10:37

                                    a.         Jesus then drove the point home by telling the lawyer to do the same

            B.        In our times, attitudes about neighbors have shifted

                        1.         “Friends and neighbors” used to be a common expression. Neighbors were people you could count on for help in times of need.

                        2.         Today few people know their neighbors. If you know the names of everyone whose property touches yours, you are more aware than most

                        3.         Sadly, when neighbors do interact, it is often because of a disagreement: pets, noise, property lines, and appearance of the yard.

            C.        But our neighbor is not just the person next door. Our neighbor is anyone are nearby at the moment – the people we work with, are sharing the road with, or even in the same aisle at the supermarket.

            D.        How are Christians to treat their neighbor? How do I show mercy?

III.       Showing mercy to my neighbor

            A.        Be humble

                        1.         The biggest hindrance to being a good neighbor is pride - Romans 12:16

                        2.         This was the problem of the priest and the Levite in Jesus’ parable

                        3.         We should treat people with equity and not consider ourselves as superior

                        4.         Don’t hate those around you. But notice that correcting is not hatred. Actually, not correcting a wrong is hatred - Leviticus 19:7

                        5.         Seek your neighbor’s good instead of your own - I Corinthians 10:24

            B.        Don’t seek revenge

                        1.         Jesus had said, “love God” and “love your neighbor” were the two core commands.

                        2.         “Love your neighbor” comes from Leviticus 19:18. Notice what it also says.

                        3.         If there is a problem, let God handle it - Proverbs 20:22

                        4.         The Jews had taken rules for how judges were to handle personal injury crimes and used them to justify personal vengeance - Matthew 5:38-42

            C.        Do what is right

                        1.         Respect what is right - Romans 12:17

                        2.         Have a regard for what is honorable - II Corinthians 8:21

                        3.         Leave a memory of good deeds - I Peter 2:12; 3:16

            D.        Seek to be at peace with all people

                        1.         It isn’t always possible. Peace is a two-way street and some people refuse to be peaceable, but we try - Romans 12:18

                        2.         Do what you can. If there isn’t peace, then the fault is not attributed to you.

                        3.         Therefore, be the one who tries to initiate peace - Matthew 5:9

IV.      Have you been a good neighbor?

            A.        If not, it is time to start

Based on a lesson written by John Gaines

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