Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

The Real Jesus Creed

posted by Scot McKnight

Who wants to tell a story about the hardest (next-door) neighbor they’ve had to learn how to love? The practical reality is that it is much easier to want to love your neighbor than to love your neighbor in deed.


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Jim Martin

posted September 30, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Probably the most difficult people that I have ever been challenged to love was a literal neighbor.
I was single, in my mid-twenties, and was renting an upstairs apartment from an older gentleman and his wife. (I had moved to another state.) They lived in the main part of the house below. I lived upstairs in their apartment with its own entrance from the outside.
On weekend two friends who I had known for years came to visit me. They stayed for several days. Both were Christians, in their twenties, and had traveled eleven hours for the visit. One was African-American, a graduate of Pepperdine University, and had a degree in Religion. Both of these guys were heavily involved in their church, etc.
They returned to their home on Sunday PM. Monday AM, I found a notice on my car from my landlord telling me that I was being evicted.
I asked the landlord for an exclamation. After much hesitation, he said that he did not approve of a having a guy of another race spending the night under his roof. I could not believe it. This was 1977!
I knew he went to church every Sunday. I asked him how he justified his attitude toward this guy in light of Jesus and his teachings. His answer? “Your talking about church. I’m talking about who I rent to. They have nothing to do with each other.”
I moved out and had great difficulty not hating and despising the man. It was a real challenge to not just love my neighbor in either word or deed. I’m not sure that I did well with either.

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Jim Martin

posted September 30, 2009 at 2:54 pm

I must have been in a hurry. I just noticed that I said “people” instead of “person.”

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posted September 30, 2009 at 3:31 pm

Sometimes the hardest person to love is not a next-door neighbor, but a loved one, co-worker, fellow parishioner, etc. People that we have to have contact with or people with whom contact is hard to avoid. If only we could just avoid people, that would make it so much easier, right? Not really. We’d still have to deal with our conscience on the fact that we have aught with someone. We just like to think it’s as simple as avoiding the person. Anyway, probably the hardest person for me to love is my father (notice this is not written in the past tense; I’m still learning. Not sure that I want to). He’s a very hard person and difficult to love. At times, compassion breaks threw, but at other times I find myself disgusted with him and his willful ignorance. Nevertheless, I do pray for him and for myself. No quick fixes on this topic. Deeds may help, but sometimes it requires a lifetime of practice.

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posted September 30, 2009 at 4:28 pm

I had a new fence put in. Beautiful 8-foot cedar board-on-board job done by a guy who’s as much of an artist as he is a fence builder. I gave him my survey before the job was done, and he built it while my next-door neighbor was on vacation. (His first vacation in 5 years, supposedly. He actually accused me of waiting until he went on vacation to build this fence.)
When it was done is was 5 inches – 5 lousy stinkin’ inches – over the property line. (Just at one end. The other end was inside the line.) Next door neighbor told me he wanted it moved. Said it was “a cloud on [his] title.” Fence builder said he would do it at his cost which was going to be another grand. (Yeah, I could have taken it to small claims and had him do it at his cost, but I wanted to keep a good relationship with the fence guy too.)
Funniest part of the story was when I went to tell him when it would be moved, he wasn’t home, but his wife apologized for her husband being such a jackass (her word) about the whole ordeal.

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Kenny Johnson

posted September 30, 2009 at 4:29 pm

I’m not a big fan of people in general so I find the whole exercise to be quite difficult. :)

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posted September 30, 2009 at 5:19 pm

13 years ago, we were just married and moved into an apartment near the state college where I was a student. One-bedroom apartment. Very late at night, the next-door neighbor would smoke pot and crank the radio. Fumes and loud music make it hard to sleep. I would knock on the wall and he would knock back. Called the cops, they didn’t care. Did not enjoy that guy as a neighbor! Perhaps I should have just enhaled deeply and went with it…

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posted September 30, 2009 at 6:29 pm

When he took up making firewood – that chainsaw all day long. He was also the one who was using a backhoe that beeped when you backed up, till 3 a.m. Of course, they’d been drinking beer all day while operating the backhoe all day and night. Didn’t help.

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posted September 30, 2009 at 7:09 pm

It is probably not good for me to do this, but I’m always needing to vent a little.
I moved to a Northern Canadian town about a year and a half ago. I’m the Associate Pastor of Youth at a baptist church. Our youth group is also made up of teenagers from the local Mennonite church which is located in what used to be an apartment complex. There are still three apartments upstairs, and the Mennonite’s way to help support us was to provide an apartment.
Enter our next door neighbors. About 10 years ago, a pregnant couple that was highly involved in a few of the ministries around town came on a hard time and needed a place to stay. So, the church stepped in and let them rent one of the apartments for fairly cheap. It was supposed to be short term, but ten years and four kids later, they are still living in this 2 bedroom apartment. Yeah, that’s four kids, 5-10 years old, 2 girls, 2 boys in one bedroom.
They use the entire building as if it is all their home. Their kids run up and down the hallway. Their kids throw things against the wall in the nursery (right next to our apartment). They use quite a few other rooms in the church for their own storage — including the laundry room. The single lady on the other end of the hallway has Monday evening for laundry. My wife and I have Fridays. This family has every other day. (But if we don’t keep laundry going constantly on our day, or start it early in the morning, they will do laundry anyway, and then avoid you all day so that you can’t say anything to them). Their children have tried numerous times to come into our apartment (before we lived there, it was empty and they used it as a playroom). My mandolin, which was hanging on a very sturdy guitar hanger, fell off of the wall because their kids were running up and down the hallway shaking the church. They make snide comments about women who aren’t stay at home mothers and/or aren’t homeschoolers. If you ask the kids to be quieter, they will for about five minutes. If you have to find the parents to ask them to get their kids quiet, they ask, “Why? Are you having a bible study or something?”
In a town that has never had a shortage of jobs (even during the recession, McDonald’s cashiers still make $11 an hour), he has not kept a job for more than about 7 months in the past ten years. An experienced carpenter in this town could easily make $45,000 a year. A certified carpenter could make upwards of 60-70. Plus this is Canada and they get a few hundred a month for their children. In other words, they aren’t hurting. In fact, he has had numerous chances to work at the mine, at which the lowest paid workers make upwards of $100,000 when the price of nickel is moderately high.
But still, a few years ago, the church offered to help them with a down payment on a house if he would keep his job for a year. Well, a few weeks before this was all supposed to go down, he didn’t go to work one afternoon because he had to take a scuba diving test. For recreation. No house.
A generous person gave them $10,000 for a down payment recently. He quit his job and the family went on a three week vacation. Oh yeah, and then he flew to Winnipeg and got a vasectomy reversal. Did I mention that they have 4 kids in a 2 bedroom apartment?
A few weeks ago, they were offered a 3 bedroom apartment, with a yard, by one of the church members, for an extreme discount that put it close to what they are paying currently. They didn’t take it because there was “not enough storage.”
In case you can’t tell, I’m having a hard time learning to love these neighbors as I love myself. I think I am more confused at the things that they do now than I am angry. Confusion is easier to continue loving them through.

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posted September 30, 2009 at 8:15 pm

oh boy… I just prayed for the Lord to encourage you and give you wisdom in this situation.

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L.L. Barkat

posted September 30, 2009 at 8:17 pm

To comment #8, just want to say that I think anger is a healthy emotion. It can be a red flag that says, “Something is wrong.” And clearly something is wrong here.
So the question becomes… what does it mean to love our neighbor when something is wrong? Does it mean to be nice? To accept all behaviors as okay? What does it really mean to overlook offenses for the sake of love?
Btw, the part about your mandolin somehow made me particularly sad.

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Bob Hyatt

posted September 30, 2009 at 8:17 pm

Brandon- I think for those folks,”love” looks a little more tough and a little less enabling. “Time to move out and carry your weight”- that’s the most loving thing someone could say to them.

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Carl Holmes

posted September 30, 2009 at 8:19 pm

Dude, that is a test. I have had similar, although not as dire, situations in my apartment. We are missionaries in our apartment complex and the management thinks that means that we are the be all catch all 2 a.m. dealers with all neighbors. It tests my patience and love.
All I can offer, if you were asking, is that maybe it is time for the church to do a tough love scenario… time to leave.
Praying for you in that situation. I can only imagine.

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Lisa Robbins

posted September 30, 2009 at 9:32 pm

I agree with #11. Love and enabling don’t mean the same thing.

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Clint Parsons

posted September 30, 2009 at 10:59 pm

Sounds about right to me. I have a little of your ‘confusion’ as well. Seems the easiest answer for many in the church is to ‘give a man a fish’, smile, tell how great the ministry ‘experience’ was and then forget about after a couple of weeks. If that long.
Sounds like you are one of those lucky people/groups who get to see what happens after the ‘gracious’ ministering takes place and everyone leaves.
Ongoing mission? What’s that?
I’m amazed and encouraged that you’re still an associate pastor… Patient like Job, depressed like Elijah or … I choose patient. Kudos to you!

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Richard Watts

posted September 30, 2009 at 11:32 pm

Followers of Jesus all to often fail to note that the ethic Jesus taught actually went beyond the Jesus Creed and is considered unique among world religions and philosophies: Love your enemies. Which reminds me of Chesterton’s humorous comment: “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors and also to love our enemies: probably because they are generally the same people.”

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posted October 1, 2009 at 7:44 am

I have two older friends–one in her early 60s, the other in his early 70s–whose looks, let us say, have faded, and yet they each (they don’t know each other) get more and more judgmental about the looks of younger people. One only wants his teenage son to date strikingly good-looking girls and the other states she is only interested in good-looking young people, because looks matter to her more now that she’s older. I realize that in each case, the person is probably denying or trying to cope with his or her own aging, but it gets very difficult to be around people practicing what seems to be hypocrites. When either of them starts criticizing a 20-something for being “ugly,” I feel like saying (OK, screaming) “Look in the mirror! What do you think YOU look like? And were you ever that great-looking that you can now pass judgment …” I know it’s the human experience and we all do it in one form or another, but it irks. Thanks. :)

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posted October 1, 2009 at 7:49 am

I meant hypocrisy in the last post, but I seem incapable of writing grammatically on this blog, although I teach college writing and do, in fact, know better. So I am a “hypocrisy” too.

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Lived in Wien!

posted October 1, 2009 at 10:34 am

It doesn’t sounds like the church is being a good neighbor to this family. I feel sad for the children, what kind of example is this setting? Being a good neighbor and being Christ to others does not include a free ride. Grace… yes! But there is no reason for this family to change their situation at this point. Let’s all pray for this church and family that God would intervene in their lives.

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posted October 1, 2009 at 11:58 am

For the record, the majority of the church does not want them there anymore. But you have to realize, this is a Mennonite church. Though it is not a far cry from your typical baptist church at this point, pacifism still runs strong. I’ve noticed that they don’t like confrontation at all. So it is easier to simply pacify them than doing something about it.
Not to mention there are pretty strict tenancy laws in this province, and, from what I hear, the courts usually side with the tenants. Two people in leadership at the church also own many of the apartments in town, so they understand how difficult those things can be. At the same time, not paying rent on time, unreasonable disturbances of other neighbors, and unauthorized use of property not within the rental unit are legitimate reasons for immediate eviction.

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