Over the past couple of weeks I've written about the journey home to heaven. We've taken a winding, wandering path through life that, like Dorothy's yellow brick road, took us on many twists and turns through this world we don't quite fit in. During this long, seemingly endless journey, we have asked many questions and at times grown impatient along the way, all in anticipation of our life in heaven. And I got to thinking, Jesus is preparing a place for us in heaven. I wonder, what will my next door neighbors be like?
I've lived in my share of rental property during my adult life, until about 11 years ago when my name was recorded with the
as a property owner. For the most part, I've lived in places where I had some decent neighbors. Occasionally there would be little uproars about something. I remember moving in to the townhouse we rented in T-ville. Our unit was next to the back corner of the complex. Four doors away in a unit that faced ours, a couple was having an argument. F-this, and F-that, and some other profanities and accusations... and then the kicker - the wife shouts, "GOOBER!" ... What? Did she really call him "Goober"??? Weeks later, we would see Mr. Goober standing outside, shirtless, wearing his sweatpants, holding a lit cigarette in one hand and a can of Coors in the other, shouting for his children to come home. Yeah ... he really was a goober ... County of This Big Urban Metropolis
Then there was the time where the local police responded to a call in my corner at that same townhouse complex. Since it was not clear which unit the disturbance was coming from, several residents got a personal visit from
's finest. Turlock
"T-ville Police Department - Can you open your door please?"
I comply, not exactly sure what is going on.
"We have a report that there is screaming coming from one of the units."
"Well, I am watching a movie"
"What are you watching?"
(I can't believe I have to actually admit this...) "I'm watching 'Plan 9 From Outer Space.' Maybe there was some screaming in the movie?"
"But you're OK?"
(I am willingly, voluntarily watching an Ed Wood movie, the worst movie of all time, and I'm being asked if I'm OK ... what is the proper response in these circumstances?) "Yes, officer. Everything's fine."
As it turns out, the couple just off the corner - not the Goobers - was having the argument.
Then there was the family who lived in the front house when we lived at 2124 in the city with the beach. We had our washer and dryer hooked up in the garage, but it seemed their clothes were in them more than ours were. When we brought up the subject, communication seemed to immediately break down. A few months later the sheriff officers from the next city paid a visit to the Front-House family. As I recall, it had something to do with check fraud and a couple of other charges. No one was home, so the officers "let themselves in." We started looking for a different housing situation shortly after that.
Neighbors. Sometimes you can't live with them, but in the city, you can't live away from them. Why can't they all be like Brad, the guy who lived in the very corner at the townhouse complex? He was the kind of guy who quietly lived his life, worked at his job, kept his place neat and tidy. He even offered to give up his parking place when he found out my family was coming up to visit. People like that are so easy to like.
But what if Mr. Goober is in heaven? Or the Front-House people? Will I have "neighbors from hell" on the gold-paved street where I will live? Say it isn't so!
Maybe this is part of the reason Jesus taught us to love our enemies. Oh, it's easy to love the Neighbor Brad's of the world. I'm sure not even the Goober family could find fault with Brad. But as children of God, we are called to live lives that set us apart from everyone else. That means we are to love our neighbors from hell the same as we would love Brad.
You mean the Goobers, the Corner Couple, the Front-House Family? I have to love them too?
Yes. You have to love them too. For starters, God provides sun and rain for you, right? Guess what - God provides it for them too! Besides, you haven't always been the perfect neighbor yourself. Remember the time you fell asleep with your stereo turned up too loud, and the downstairs neighbor left that angry note on your door?
Loving your enemies is part of loving your neighbor. It is part of living a life that is pleasing to God. As it is written in Proverbs 16:7, "When a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him."
We pray, "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Our lives here on earth are a training ground for our eternal life in heaven. Our lives on earth ought to mirror what life is like in heaven. God knows what it is like to love the unlovable. Heaven is full of people who used to be his enemies. Through Jesus' death and resurrection, we can receive forgiveness for our un-neighborly conduct toward Him and be in a right relationship with Him once again. God has made that promise not only to you and me and the Neighbor Brad's, but also to the Goobers, Corner Couples, and Front House people. So, love them now - they may be your neighbors in heaven!