Good Neighbors

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Good Neighbors

Ephesians 4:25-32

“So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

I’m not normally one to dig into the Greek text and focus on individual words much, but I was surprised in finding the word translated “neighbor” here in this passage. I expected the word “brother”. The word Paul uses here – πλησίον (plēsion) does not refer to someone you share kinship with, it refers to someone with whom you share space. It means the person nearby. So, here Paul means neighbour in the same sense that Jesus meant neighbor in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

I have heard a lot of talk about diversity and cultural boundaries the last few years, but I have heard a lot less about being good neighbors. Perhaps we have been more dependant upon peyote like Fred Rogers to keep us neighborly, and in his absence we have reverted back to our natural state of suspicion towards those nearby. I don’t know. I’m not a very good neighbor myself. It might not look like it, but I live in a neighborhood that has drugs, prostitution, meth labs, and plenty of scenes that could have made it into the old television series “Cops”. When I get suspicious of neighbors it is not only due to issues of diversity, it is because I hear the shouting in the middle of the night as they fight in the street and I can remember the house next to us burning down when the meth lab exploded. Those memories are all challenges to my small attempts at being a “good neighbor”.I can understand Robert Frost‘s admonition about building fences and by extension, I can understand the nation’s desire to build walks around ourselves.

Maybe Paul had neighbors like me. I appreciate that he did not begin this passage with a generic slogan to love our neighbors. No, instead he challenges us to speak the truth to them. Building a fence is a way of speaking about separation and disconnect. This is where I end and you begin. Yet the next sentence from Paul says that is not truth but a lie. Paul claims we are all members of one another. Again, remember this is not family or even church family. He is shedding about the person nearby… your neighbors. Either the walls are lies our Paul is lying (or just wrong on this account).

He continues on and writes that it is ok to be angry, but not ok to keep that anger in without speaking about if. Could it be that this treasured piece if marriage advice was actually intended to be used between neighbors?
Paul writes that we should not steal from one another, taking advantage of one another, but instead we should use our words in particular and our deeds also to build up our neighbors. We need to put away our bitterness and forgive our neighbors as Christ forgave us.

What do you communicate to your neighbors?

How do you build them up?

How do you show them forgiveness as Christ had shown you?

 

 

spiritus asper

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valor colored moments in patient days

lean into the wind just to feel its breath

to hear their name sung by the prairie grass

in the Rollingda Bultryple – my heart’s meter

drumming up from the dirt that coats my bones

 

there is another side I cannot see

facing out-taken fragments of mortar and pestle

crushed memories, congealed in tears

and painted like salve to balm my regret

off-white and sterile, dimmer and clean

 

perversely palatable these winnowless spaces

which pull on the edges of cheekbones and lips

turning backwards against their internal setting

until vigilance snaps with a rack-shatter clatter

and diligence stretches the joints out of keep

 

where is the storm to send what is the matter

at hand four beforehand and afterward never

when it’s time to fall back to the spring of complacency

comatose solitude frozen insensitive

bulwarks to blame for the faith of the enemy

 

lessen the teaching of carpeted clamor

when fire resounding is what my heart dreams

and fills my grip over with precipitation

that flashes with wonder and coddles the rage

against white-washed solutions and desolate gain

 

loosen the fount of Chimaera’s gullet

buttress the bridges that bide in between

the time to rush forward in anticipation

the time to crawl under the plunging debris

to the solace of six spaceless moments of motion

 

oh bring me that wind to blow through my bones

and peel the layers of paint worn and past

from the top of my head to the tip of my chin

and down to my toes where the cleaners crawl through

and make me anew

and make me anew