panelarrow

Love That Neighbor?

| 6 Comments

The hardest command in the Bible, (and there are a lot of them), has to be “Love your enemy.” Another tough one is “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

But what happens if your enemy and your neighbor are one and the same?

love_thy_neighbor-billboard1

My wife and I have experienced a lot of bad neighbors in our twenty years of marriage:

Our first apartment had a common court yard. The neighbors in the back sat on their second story porch literally and figuratively looking down on us mocking us whenever we went outside. I tried winning them over by talking with them and reasoning with them, but we ultimately had to move.

Our second place we lived had a drunk neighbor who lived in the front and he would leer at my beautiful wife regularly. In the back of us, one of our neighbors had a broom fight with one of her friends over their back fence. (Yes, we watched.) Another  neighbor behind refused to keep their pit bull locked up despite our concerns abut our newborns crawling around. (And they were just weird, too. The mom was a member of  The Le Leche League and had her 5-year-old suckling at her teet.)

We moved.

South Redondo Beach is an upper middle class area. We thought that the neighbors might be a bit higher in class.

Nope.

Before we even moved in, our potential new neighbor tried to convince the landlord that he shouldn’t rent to us though we had never met her before. After we moved in, she would leave nasty notes on our back porch because she didn’t like our crying 2-year-old. She ended up getting evicted.

Who moved in next? A drug addicted stripper.

Our other neighbor next to us hated squirrels. We came home one day to find half of our beautiful eucalyptus tree cut down—by him—so the squirrels wouldn’t perch there.  And he’d leave poison on our fence for our dogs or kids to possibly eat.

We moved.

We now bought our very first home in Long Beach and was in a very nice, upper middle class neighborhood called Bixby Knolls. Whatever could go wrong?

I befriended a 70-year-old tough-guy Jewish man, the kind of hard-scrabble guy who grew up on the streets of New York City. We bought each other lunch and had a fine relationship—for one year. On the 366th day of our friendship, he turned on me and my family saying our dogs barked too much. (I monitored the situation. Yep, they barked for a total of two minutes a day, way too much for a stay-at-home curmudgeon with a chip on his shoulder.)

The second year of our relationship had me tolerating nasty, expletive-laden hand-written notes left on our front porch, complaining about our dogs, along with F-bomb texts multiple times a week. When he followed our pre-pubescent girls down the street in his car, we knew it was time to move.

To Texas. The Friendly State.

We had high hopes for a great relationship with our new neighbor who lived about a half mile away. We lived on seven acres and had lots of room. Who could bother us now?

Our neighbor.

We had to cross his property about a thousand feet on what is known as an easement. “In Texas,” one Realtor said, “an easement is a four letter word.” I’m going to spare you all the details of our one year relationship, but let me sum it up by saying our neighbor hammered “No Trespassing” signs on either end of the easement we used. He subtly threatened to shoot us, and has done many other intimidating things. We sat down for breakfast to talk things out but he left, stubbornly refusing a compromise.

We have had two state mediations with lawyers present and think the situation may finally be remedied after spending thousands of dollars, but I don’t know if our relationship will ever be improved unless God intervenes directly.

Still, we are to love them, that’s why we give them gifts (which were returned). And that’s why we pray for them. And bless them. And do good to them.

But the last straw was about a month ago when they called the Sheriffs on us. What did we do? What horrendous crime did we commit?

My wife went to work in the morning and noticed their son’s horse was loose in our neighbor’s lower pasture. She was concerned that he might get hurt because of all the debris in that portion of their property and she asked me to tell our neighbor’s son.

Despite all the “No Trespassing” signs erected on our behalf I crossed the barbed wire fence and knocked on the son’s door. “Uh, excuse me. I hate to disturb you but I wanted to let you know that your horse is loose in the lower pasture and we didn’t want it to get hurt.”

The son’s response? “Go away, Steve. You’re trespassing.”

Like father, like son.

Then I got a text from his dad: “Where our horse is on our property is not your concern. TRESPASSING WILL NOT BE TOLERATED. You will be filed on.”

The Sheriff did call and left this message: “I understand that you wanted to help your neighbor by telling him his horse was loose and he filed a no trespassing charge.”

When I talked to him in person, he said, “We Sheriffs see a lot and have an opinion on things, but sometimes we better just keep them to ourselves.”

Yes, even the Sheriff knows understands what’s really going on.

But more importantly, God knows what’s going on and understands the type of man our neighbor is because He made him in His image. And just like God loved me when I was His enemy, so, too, I am to love my enemy, my neighbor. The biblical mandate is clear:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Perhaps God will use me to save him as I continue to love my enemy, my neighbor.

Then we can both walk on that narrow road.

Together.

(Scripture reference: Romans 12:14-21)

*****

A Chronicle of Our Continued Issues. Prayer requested.

As of 1/6/16: We currently have a road man working to build our new road but the ground is too wet and his equipment keeps getting stuck. He can’t finish by our deadline of January 10. We need our neighbors to extend the deadline or we will not be able to get to or from our home. There has been lots of trouble with these people.

As of 1/7/16: WE STILL NEED PRAYER for our difficult neighbor. He did not grant us an extension for the building of our easement. I went to the Sheriff and they affirmed that there is no way he can block our access to our home, which is probably what he will do. In fact, if he locks us in, it’s called “Unlawful Imprisonment.”

As of 1/8/16:  We are consulting our lawyer on our options. Our neighbor started videotaping my wife as she walked on the main easement, not his. He is using intimidation tactics now. Thank you for praying for these updates.

As of 1/9/16: Our neighbor has blocked our road so we cannot get out. We’ve called the Sheriff and are hoping for an amicable outcome. We continue to pray a blessing on this man.  Here’s our road in the picture:

blocked road

As of 1/9/16 (later in the day): The Sheriffs came and said our new easement is sufficient. Please pray we don’t get stuck. It’s very muddy. Two road builders quit because they got stuck and won’t come back until it’s drier. So, our family will be trusting God each time we drive. We are hopeful that our road man will come out next week to finish our new easement.

6 Comments

  1. Hey Steve,
    I’m so sorry to hear about all these bad neighbors and hardships. I’m praying for you and your family and will donate to your church fund. Gid bless you Brother. You’re a good man in Christ

    Donny

  2. Ugh, Steve, what a story. So sad and frustrating that people CHOOSE to be mean and miserable towards others. You have and continue to pour more grace upon your neighbor than I would be able to. I think I would have lost it a long time ago. You are a wonderful Christian example of what we should be and do to those who mistreat us given who it really is we are trying to represent as His ambassadors. I praise God for you, brother. And you know you have our promise to continue praying for you.

    Much love to you in Christ,

    Paul & Kim

  3. I admire your generosity Steve. I try to have the same generosity and tolerance to the people in my life and am usually successful but it is often difficult.
    Recently I have found a new appreciation of the need to love others despite their hostility. My job, despite being a good job and lucrative has a large drawback of laying off in November and December. This is necessary due to the nature of the work, which involves data collection, loss prevention, and inventory management for retail outlets who obviously don’t want us in their stores during holiday shopping. Although I am management (I started as a computer tech.) I am not yet salaried so I usually just draw unemployment for two months. This year however my family is planning to travel cross country to visit friends in New York, so we needed extra money. I took a seasonal customer service job with a Christmas gift company.
    Since starting I have to help people with a variety of problems with their orders. Some of these people are angry, hostile, and even cursing and yelling. I have found that in order to help them, instead of reacting to how they talk to me, I need to put myself in their shoes, understand that they are upset that the gift they planned for people they love is late or defective or just less than perfect. They are emotional because they are stressed and feeling love and disappointment and are just lashing out at me because I am there and have to listen. I have found that when I see this and empathize, and use all my resources to help them, they relax, then calm down, then thank me for saving their Christmas. I think this experience has made me a much better and more loving person. Instead of taking offense, I find myself thinking “how can I help this person, how best can I love my fellow man.” I am already planning to do this again next year. I went from doing a job I didn’t like and was just doing for the money, to wanting to go to work each day just for the opportunity to make my fellow man happier and more satisfied with life.
    While I can’t understand what it is like to be a minister and devote my life to that, I think I can at least understand the motivation and the joy you get from it. I salute you and wish you nothing but luck and success with your new congregation.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.