The problem with neighbors
I don’t want to be so close to you. You make my life more difficult.
If I neglect my yard, you can see it. If I yell at my kids, you can hear it.
And worse, if you yell at your kids, I can hear it. So now, like it or not, I have to decide how much I care about you.
If I am typical, I will decide I don’t care at all. I’ll just turn up the Christmas music. If I decide I care a little bit, maybe I’ll call the police and report a domestic disturbance.
It’s too, too much to get to know you, to get to know your wife, and to minister to you. That’s a lot of trouble, and I’m busy. It’d be so much easier if there were more distance between us and fewer chances of noticing you.
But now it’s Christmastime. That means I must contend with our Nativity set and everything it represents.
Here is the Babe, surrounded by shepherds and angels and barn animals. Here is the transcendent Creator of the universe, born of flesh. Here is God, too close.
The scandal of Jesus isn’t that he is God. The scandal of Jesus is that he did not remain distant. He dwelt among us. He became Emmanuel: God with us.
I’ve heard preachers say Jesus stepped into our world, but instead we should say he elbowed and slashed his way into our world. He wasn’t polite: He forced his way into the arms of a young bewildered couple, he demanded twelve men follow him, he rebuked rulers and cast out demons.
He didn’t just sit in heaven and command us to love our neighbor. He was born a baby to become your closest neighbor, my closest neighbor, and to show how to lay down one’s own life for the life of another.
And then He told everyone to follow him. Just as he put aside everything to love his people, we are to put aside all other loves, all loves for neighbor, for parent, for child and for spouse, and to love Him first.
Love Him first, He says, and all other loves tilt and find their proper orbits.
Dear neighbor, you are close, sometimes too close. But if my closest neighbor is Jesus, and if he truly loved me first, it’s the least I can do to turn and love you, too.
Have a merry Christmas.
— Jon Swerens · photo by Patrick Q on Flickr