The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” -Mark 12:31 (NLT)
In the charming kids’ book The House in the Middle of Town by Crystal Bowman, there was an old widow who could not maintain her house on her own. Her house was falling apart. Neighbors in the area saw her need, and joined together to fix up and beautify her house inside and out.
You might know someone who lives in such a neglected house, one that’s ill-maintained and possibly unfit for human habitation. Recently, I’ve started to help clean and fix just such a family member’s house, and it was truly squalid. Layers of grime and filth coated surfaces. The air was foul. The air conditioning vents looked like they had mold on them.
The charming children’s book doesn’t mention the smells that come with a neglected house. As I put on gloves, a sweatband, and breathing mask, it was a little easier to tolerate. Despite being hungry and thirsty, I didn’t have much of an appetite while in the house. I’ll just say that insects and vermin extinguished my appetite for food and drink. (And this agent loves both!)
But as with everything else, I knew that every action–or even inaction–was an opportunity to show or not show God’s love to our neighbors. Of course I didn’t want to be there. Of course I didn’t want to deal with such filth. But I knew it was not about me. It was about letting God’s selfless love flow through us.
Garbage bag after garbage bag was filled with trash. I surveyed the overwhelming amount of work still ahead–several weekends–and saw many home improvements that waited ahead. But the bigger picture was to be able to say, “Look what He did!” and not “Look what I did!”
If I had my way, I’d probably prefer to be home or anywhere else but this disgusting house. It’s just easier. But God doesn’t call us to do easy. He calls us to do things that honor Him and make Him known. He calls us to leave our comfort zone. Jesus got right into the trenches to extend God’s love and grace hands on. We are called to do the same: not just to proclaim His Word, but to live it.
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