Neighbors

neighborsGen. 33:18 “Then Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan Aram; and he pitched his tent before the city.”
The tents were raised, and the herdsmen settled into the countryside, and the sounds and smells of building camp reverberated.
But soon there would be trouble with the neighbors.
Gen. 34:30a “Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have troubled me by making me obnoxious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites;’”
God spoke to Jacob and told him to move and to live in a different place.
How did things go wrong?
In this case one poor decision led to another and, as is common, sin ran rampant, ending tragically with murder, grief, and lifelong consequences. Jacob never forgot this moment in time and how his sons had tricked an entire town and then excused their behavior in the cloak of revenge.
How we treat those around us makes a difference.
Are we thoughtful of our neighbors?
Do we speak with understanding to the harried teller at the checkout or bank window?
Are there missed opportunities to show gentleness and kindness to others?
It is easy to say, “Love your neighbor” but can often cost us more than we are willing to give.
Recently I was standing with my three youngest children in a line.
A LONG line, at the airport, waiting to be scanned yet again (I had lost track at this point how many times we had already been scanned).
The kids were very tired and hungry and the last thing they wanted to do was wait.
I smiled at each of them as often as I could with words of encouragement that we were having a wonderful opportunity to learn patience and that those who can learn at an early age to wait gracefully would truly be ahead–for life is full of waiting.
As we continued to weave around and around the serpentine two grown men began to complain behind me.
They seemed to grow louder and more abusive with their berating of the airline, the laws, the people who were taking so long, the airport staff…
I tried to maneuver our kids away from such talk as they were already struggling with their attitudes.
I explained again to each of them that the reason for all the lines and scans and questions was the air port personnel were trying to make sure we were safe. That each of these things was put in place to guard us from danger.
They kids nodded and trudged on.
When finally we were free of that line I pulled the kids aside and apologized for the things the men were saying. Thankfully none of them had paid any attention and therefore didn’t have a clue what I was talking about.
I smiled.
We soon found ourselves in a new line.
A man traveling alone was behind us and at one turn in the line our son tripped and banged into the roller suitcase the man had in front of him.
I quickly apologized and took Jason’s hand to help him walk in front of me.
The man simply laughed.
“Well, I was not paying attention a little while ago and actually ran my bag into him first, so I guess it is pay back!”
I laughed in return and then tried to hush our boy as he looked at the man and stated, “Yah, don’t do that again.”
The man simply laughed more.
That was the end of any conversation but the rest of the line was much more pleasant. I knew that there was a good neighbor behind us.
What a difference a little grace can make!
That must be what Jesus meant when he told the story of the Good Samaritan. He wanted us to live for those around us as He lives for us.

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