Thursday, December 11, 2014
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22 KJV)
The elderly gentleman was not pleased when his wife told him who was at the meeting that night. The neighbors she spoke of had been a thorn in his side – and rude to his wife! – in the past. Their being left behind when he and his wife moved was part of the comfort of their new place. Just speaking of them caused his voice to quaver a bit.
He knew his Bible and he could quote that forgiving seventy times seven, but they had lived as neighbors seven days a week far more than seventy weeks, so maybe there was a bit of justification for his reaction? Not really. The seventy times seventy wasn’t a maximum. Besides, there had been changes.
While he had been outgoing and friendly to them, he spoke of their needs to others, prayed for their needs as well as their souls and the church had responded. He was reminded that Paul had explained this very point to the church at Corinth:
I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. (1 Corinthians 3:6-9 KJV)
We cannot change anyone’s life. But – we can plant the seed of hope, watered with the love we share and when they are ready to listen to God, He will provide what is necessary to increase love in their lives. None of us can take credit for doing God’s will since we do labor together, never alone, as Jesus promised:
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20 KJV)
Our gentleman and his wife also have taken to heart:
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Matthew 19:19b KJV)
Look that up and read verses 16 through 22 – another excellent lesson. But our focus here is on neighbors and Matthew quotes Jesus again, making them second only to our Lord:
Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40 KJV)
Second is our neighbor. Yep, that rude, insensitive, thoughtless neighbor who needs God as much as we do, but hasn’t realized it - yet. Our witness can be a beckoning light. Our gentleman’s life was, as he planted seeds of love.