My seventy-nine year old neighbor died suddenly Saturday. She was at the flea market with her daughter, suffered a massive stroke, was rushed to the hospital and died a few hours later.
We'd been good neighbors to one another for eighteen years; polite, egg borrowing, mail gathering, house watching neighbors. We'd chat if we both took our trash to the curb or picked up our newspapers at the same time. She never wanted to be a bother and I tried not to bother her unless I needed that egg or my phone line was down and I needed to use hers.
After her husband died from the effects of Alzheimer's a couple of years ago Jay was good about helping her with heavy lifting and I took her food occasionally if I had extra and thought she might like what I'd made.
But I never invited her to church and I never shared Jesus with her. Oh, I talked about Him. She knew we were regular church goers. After Jordan died I told her I knew he was with the Lord and she said she thought her husband Bill must be too, because he was "a good man." I didn't dispute the fact, but I didn't press the matter either, asking her, "What is good?" Nor did I tell her, "There is none good but God alone." Or explain the truth that, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." I never shared with her how she could be assured she would be with the Lord when she died.
And as I was trying to have my prayer time today, I knew that I had done her a grave disservice. I had neglected to "Love my neighbor as myself." My literal neighbor. I stood silent and mute as she walked in darkness. I kept a bushel basket over my light.
I was sick at heart as I felt the Lord's deep grief over my neglect and I know that I will have to give an account to Him one day. I can only stand even more ashamed than I am right now when He asks me why I never told Shirley about the salvation I hold to be more valuable than life itself.
When I was in NYC this past week, we had VIP passes to "Good Morning America." I was really interested in seeing the studio and seeing how a television show is put together. We had no idea who was scheduled to appear, we just showed up at the appointed date and time.
Turns out Clay Aiken was there, having just come out with a new CD and wrapping up his run in the Broadway production of "Spamalot."
We were scrunched in, standing shoulder to shoulder with pushing hordes of ardent, swooning "Claymates." Who knew this odd subset of society existed?
They were mostly middle-aged or older--old enough to be his mother or grandmother--and certainly old enough to have more important things to do with their lives and time than follow this young man around. At least it seemed to me they should.
I couldn't get over their idol worship. No pun intended. They talked about him as if they knew him, as if they had just had spam and eggs with him that morning.
At one point someone on the set held up a set of keys and asked if they belonged to anyone in the crowd. The woman next to me said, "They're probably Clay's!" She wasn't quite blushing, but I had the distinct impression that she knew more about him than his mother. I looked at her with a mildly bemused expression and said, "Does he lose things?" She became as animated as a Disney cartoon and said, "Oh, yes, he loses things all the time."
All I could think was, how does she know this and why does she care?
It reminded me of when we were in Memphis last year for part of our vacation and went to visit Graceland. Unbeknownst to us, it was "Elvis week." Not only was it Elvis week, we had inadvertently gone on the actual 30th anniversary of the day he died!
I can't even describe the scene. There were elaborate and homemade funeral sprays lining the long walkway up to the house and surrounding his grave. They seemed endless and they came from all over the world. The crowd was enormous; there were people everywhere. The place was packed, the lines were long, the ticket booth overrun, the parking lot jammed with tour buses.
There were men of all shapes and sizes dressed in white jumpsuits with giant gold buckles and black pompadours and woman with wrinkles, bouffants and bad make-up wearing Elvis buttons and t-shirts that said, "Number One Fan!"
A lot of people said they come every year, that it is especially beautiful at Christmas. Excuse me? I wasn't getting it.
The entire experience was surreal and quite frankly, depressing. The guy had been dead for thirty years and people were holding vigil at his grave praying to his spirit and waiting for him to come back from the dead. I'm not making any of this up.
It was shocking and bizarre and the entire experience made me realize with a clarity I had never had before that people are created to worship. And if they don't worship "in spirit and in truth" they will worship in misguided deception. And whether they worship an ideology, a movement, themselves or someone else, make no mistake. They will worship something. I wanted to shout to these people that there was only One who had died and come out of the grave.
By God's rich and unsurpassed grace, I walk in the "mystery of the Gospel" Paul refers to in Ephesians. I am saved. I know the truth. I know in Whom I have believed. I posses, in my spiritual hands, the pearl of great price.
But I dishonor God if I hold on to it and don't make every effort to share it with those in my sphere of influence.
In John 14:15 the Lord says, "If you love Me, you will keep my commandments." He confirms this Scripture in 1 John 4:20-21 where he reminds us, "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he can see, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also."
I am deeply convicted of how empty my proclamations of love for God sound to Him if I am not doing every thing I can--setting aside my discomfort and my schedule and dying to my flesh--in order to reach the lost with the hope of the Gospel. If I "hate" my neighbor by not proclaiming the gift of salvation that alone offers the fulfillment every person seeks and the eternal destiny we all desire. I pray that each of us who names the name of Christ will proclaim that name to everyone we come in contact with.
I don't want anymore missed opportunities. "Help me Lord, to speak boldly for You, to reach those You love with an everlasting love and died to set free from the bondage of sin."
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