Who is my neighbor? We hear this question asked of Jesus in Luke 10:29. And Jesus responds by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan where Jesus leads to an understanding that we should do what the Samaritan did. But today, I want to consider the question from a slightly different perspective. Who is my neighbor? A neighbor is someone who situated very near to us. And those situated the nearest to us are those in our own home. Of course, I’m not suggesting that we don’t have neighbors that need our attention and Gospel witness outside of our home, but the family life lady is going to make you consider your family for a minute (again!).
In the same account Jesus reminds us of the two greatest commandments, the second of which being, “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) So we are commanded to not just exist alongside of our family members, but to love them as our closest neighbors as much and as well as we love ourselves. (Which you have to admit, is generally the person we are best at loving!)
One of the most insightful and Biblical marriage and family authors and speakers, Dr. Rob Rienow, once described that he has 36 sinful relationships in his household (because he has 7 children). And though my household only has 10 sinful relationships today, the point is still the same—that our sinful natures come out the strongest when we are at home around the people who love us most and with whom we are safest to be our real selves. We let down our proverbial hair, turn off the filters, and let the sin fly freely. And our closest neighbors—our spouses, our children, our parents, our siblings—are often on the receiving end. They get to experience the stress, the snark, the unfiltered, the misbehaving, the selfish; the worst versions of us that we try to hide from those outside of our homes.
The one to whom we have committed to loving as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, our spouse, we can sometimes not even muster loving attitudes or actions towards. Our children, whom God has entrusted to our care for the sake of their bodily lives but also to share the faith for their very souls, we too often let seeds of bitterness make our hearts hard toward them for acting completely appropriately for their age. Our siblings, the ones whom God has gifted to us as our only lifelong friends, are often on the receiving end of our anger and outbursts. And our parents, the ones we are commanded to honor, we resent, disrespect, and disregard. Yet, somehow, we can serve the neighbor across the street. We can honor our boss and the teacher at school. We can encourage the coworker and teammate. We manage to treat other neighbors far better than our closest neighbors, our families.
So, the only thing for us to do is repent—turn back to God in contrition for our sins against the neighbors in our house, confess and seek forgiveness from them for the ways we’ve sinned against them, allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify us to walk in God’s ways, and to rest in the sure and certain hope that Christ’s atonement covers these sins against our family-neighbors too.