Loving Your Neighbor

I am a renter which means I live in close quarters with incomplete strangers. We live in a courtyard complex so there is really no privacy. You can’t get the mail, take out the trash, or go for a walk without everyone knowing. Privacy is very important to me, but the rent is low and it’s a great location … so I stay.

The complex is non-smoking. Tenants are advised that no smoking is allowed inside the units. So why is it that I am bedeviled by smokers?

Here’s the catch. The smoking ban is not written in the lease agreement. It is only expressed orally … AND … people will agree to anything for a low rent apartment. Though verbally agreed to, smoking indoors is cause for immediate eviction.

No problem for the smokers who simply step out into the open air courtyard to light up. No problem, that is, unless you are a neighbor who is allergic to cigarette smoke.

That would be … ME!

Tobacco is my number one allergy. It can trigger severe respiratory distress. It makes me sick. Now, I have graciously complained to the manager, and my neighbors — but to no avail.

Th kicker is that the manager — who lives off site — is a smoker as is his mother who works about a block away. She conveniently takes her breaks in our courtyard and lights up with the other nicotine addicts; and all of their smoke wafts into my apartment.

Loving your neighbor?

One of the tenants bought a portable fire pit. Guess where the smoke goes when she has friends over to roast weenies and marshmallows?

My whole apartment — curtains, walls, closets — smell like smoke … for days! I literally am choking and gagging in my own home. I’ve told her that the smoke makes me sick, but it hasn’t stopped her parties.

Loving your neighbor?

According to the lease agreement there can be no courtyard activity after 10 pm. We’re talking about young people. Their night doesn’t begin until 10 pm. When the bars close they stagger home for some courtyard conversation, and a few more cigarettes.

Drunk people don’t realize how loud and boorish they sound at 2 am.

Loving your neighbor?

One more example before I close this short rant. There are 8 apartments, but only one hot water heater. Why do people stay in the shower until the hot water is all gone? The guy next door, for example, will take a 3-minute shower if the water is lukewarm. Generally, his showers can last up to 20 minutes, or whenever the hot water runs cold.

I imagine he stands under the shower head in a hypnotic trance, and doesn’t really wake up until cold water touches his skin. That’s probably true for most people though the previous tenant used to take 1-minute showers … and she didn’t smoke. Gosh, I miss her.

Loving your neighbor?

I mean, I live with people who are just plain selfish. They are fine examples of our narcissistic culture. It is a quality of life issue for me. Smoke inhalation … sleep deprivation … not to mention the inconvenience of having to boil water for sanitation and cleaning. Simply because my neighbors don’t care about conservation, or consideration.

What does loving your neighbor look like? Well, it starts at home .. and it is the second greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-39).

Notes:

It’s interesting that Jesus condensed the Ten Commandments into two. The first four deal with our relationship to God while the remaining six deal with our relationship to people. Now we are to love the LORD with all our strength, and love our neighbor as our self.

My neighbors could step out onto the city sidewalk to smoke, and there would be no transgression. Or, they could have simply been honest when told this was a non-smoking complex, and rented elsewhere.

The nature of man is not so cleverly disguised.

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ

Resurrection

There is a secluded cemetery in Los Angeles tucked away in an area known as Westwood Village. The neighborhood is home to UCLA and Holmbly Hills. Tens of thousands of people drive by on their way to Beverly Hills, or Bel-Air completely unaware of the hidden memorial park. Popular restaurants and classic movie houses (along the iconic Sunset Blvd.) attract thousands of visitors just yards away from the historic spot.

Quite a number of celebrities and movie stars are buried in Southern California due to the fact that they lived and died in Los Angeles. Tourists come to L.A. just to see the grave site of their favorite actor/actress — many of whom are interred at Forest Lawn.

There is only one entrance to Westwood Village Memorial Park, and you could drive by and not even know it was there. But if you’re looking for the crypt of Marilyn Monroe you won’t find it at Forest Lawn. That’s right … Monroe was buried at Westwood Village.

Strolling through the park you’ll discover the final resting place for a number of Hollywood notables:

Truman Capote, Donna Reed, Eve Arden, Eva Gabor, Walter Matthau, Don Knotts, Mel Torme, Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Natalie Wood, Roy Orbison, Carroll O’Conner, Jack Lemmon, Bob Crane and George C. Scott.

It’s an odd feeling to be standing at the graveside of people who were once bigger than life — and now they lay as dust under the soles of your feet. I am haunted by memories of the uncounted hours spent watching my favorite movies over and over again.

There was a caretaker polishing the marker at Marilyn Monroe’s crypt. The marble had been discolored by thousands of palm prints and kisses. (Or think of the millions of fans who visit Graceland to worship Elvis Presley.) We idolized these people.

I heard a pastor this week speak of the idolatry of entertainment. Said the pastor, “Entertainment is idolatry. It is a diversion — an escape from reality.”

Your television can be an idol. How much time do we spend in front of the TV? At the movies? On the computer? Whatever diverts our attention from God can be an idol. It could be music, sports or social media. Honestly, do we give as much time to the Lord?

I love movies. I could watch TCM all day. That’s why I don’t have cable TV. The world does not want you to spend quality time with God. It’s so much easier to turn on the television than open the Bible. If only we had spent all that time learning about Jesus …

Will Marilyn Monroe be in heaven? That is a judgment for God to make. There is one who overcame death — one who escaped the tomb. You won’t find his remains on earth nor did he undergo decay (Psalm 16:10). He sits at the right hand of the Father with outstretched arms if only you will receive him.

The grave is an ignoble end for a man, or woman. But we know that physical death is only a release of the soul and, for a Christian, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).

First century Christians (Jews) celebrated Christ’s resurrection every day. Of course, they weren’t distracted by 24-hour movie channels. How refined we have become to observe the victory of life one day a year (Easter). Even then we are distracted by colored eggs and chocolate bunnies.

With regards to those buried at Westwood I can only offer this — there will be no classic films in heaven. All the works of the flesh shall be burned up at the coming of the Lord. If we can’t spend 5 minutes a day with God then how do we expect to spend an eternity with Him?

All else is vanity — all else is idolatry. (See Ecclesiastes 2.)

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ

Judge Ye Not

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Do not judge so that you will not be judged (Matthew 7:1).

One of the most misunderstood (and misquoted) verses in the Bible is where Jesus commands us to not judge.

It is a convenient response to Christian expression that is otherwise deemed unfavorable by the one leveling the charge. To say that one is being judgmental is, in fact, casting judgment.

If I don’t like what someone says I am making a judgment on their expression. Now, their expression may be sound, but that doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s not even an expression, but a behavior. Let’s say my neighbor gets drunk every night, and I tell him he should stop drinking. I’m passing judgment on my neighbor, and that would be a sin according to those who say we should not judge. It would be a sin if I staggered over with a bottle of whiskey in hand, and told my neighbor to put down his can of beer. That’s the context in which Jesus is speaking. Reading further down in the passage Jesus says to take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:5). In other words, sober up, put down that bottle of whiskey, then go to your neighbor and discuss his drinking problem.

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To so cavalierly accuse Christians of being judgmental is really wearing thin. We live in a world where Christian expression is muzzled. We are not allowed to take a moral stand, have an opinion or quote the Bible without fear of being charged with hate speech. It’s preposterous, but if you level the charge often enough it becomes the truth; and Christians find themselves marginalized in a society that is predominantly anti-Christian. The lie becomes the truth — we are judgmental bigots.

Let’s examine more closely the Matthean passage. In the very next verse (Matthew 7:6) Jesus says:

Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Is Jesus telling us to judge? Clearly, there are unbelievers — characterized as dogs and swine — that we are to avoid. Dust off your feet, save your breath, exercise discernment (judgment) and do not share the Good News with such people.

Jesus said that? Seems kind of harsh in light of His earlier commandment to not judge. It’s only a problem if we don’t compare scripture with scripture, and in context. Obviously, we are to judge with righteous judgment which John Gill described as a sense and judgment of things, according to the truth and evidence of them. [1]

Paul, a chosen instrument of Christ, wrote:

The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one (1 Corinthians 2:15).

What is Paul saying? That the Christian man or woman who is endowed with the Holy Spirit shall judge (or discern) all things, but shall be judged by no one who judges by feelings like one who is blind.

The assembly at Corinth was a complete mess. Paul wrote three, maybe four letters of correction to the disordered church. The congregation was rife with shameful behavior — idolatry, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, greed, thievery, drunkenness and all manner of defilement including the man who was caught sleeping with his father’s wife. Not even the pagans, wrote Paul, tolerated such behavior.

How did the church descend into such chaos? No one wanted to judge another’s behavior. They subscribed to a live-and-let-live attitude. It was a truly bacchanal society. Do your own thing — don’t judge me and I won’t judge you.

Paul laid down the law (1 Corinthians 6:2-3):

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!

Pastor John MacArthur:

It should be noted that this passage has erroneously been used to suggest that believers should never evaluate or criticize anyone for anything. Our day hates absolutes, especially theological and moral absolutes, and such simplistic interpretation provides a convenient escape from confrontation. Members of modern society, including many professing Christians, tend to resist dogmatism and strong convictions about right and wrong. Many people prefer to speak of all-inclusive love, compromise, ecumenism, and unity.

If this greatest sermon by our Lord teaches anything, it teaches that His followers are to be discerning and perceptive in what they believe and in what they do, that they must make every effort to judge between truth and falsehood, between the internal and the external, between reality and sham, between true righteousness and false: righteousness — in short, between God’s way and all other ways. [2]

Judgment can be defined as condemnation, or discernment. No one has the right to condemn. That is the Divine prerogative of Almighty God. But to say that Christians don’t have the right, or responsibility to exercise discernment is to strip us of our Divine calling to be light and salt. Light exposes, salt burns; And this is the judgment, saith our Lord, the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil (John 3:19).

Judgmental? Tell it to the Lord, but as for me I will continue to expose the darkness.

Notes:

1. John Gill, An Exposition of the New Testament (3 vols., 1746-8).

2. John MacArthur, Judging Others: The Verse Pagans Love to Quote, April 19, 2016.

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