August 19, 2014 • By Ed Wrather
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s. – Exodus 20:17 NKJV.
But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22: 34-40 NKJV.
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well. – James 2:8 NKJV.
In the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health there has been a study published about the effect of your neighbors on your health by the University of Michigan researchers. Researchers say that, “Having good neighbors and feeling connected to others in the local community may help to curb an individual’s heart attack risk.” It does make sense that good neighbors provide a lower level of stress as compared to having bad neighbors contributing to a higher stress level. Participants in the study were asked to award points to reflect “the extent to which they felt part of their neighborhood, could rely on their neighbors in a pinch, could trust their neighbors, and found their neighbors to be friendly.” Over a four year period, it was found that for every point they gave for these things it resulted in a lower risk of heart attack. Those people who gave their neighbors the highest possible positive score reduced their heart attack risk by 67%. A co-author of the study, Eric Kim said that this was significant and, “approximately comparable to the reduced heart attack risk of a smoker vs a non-smoker.”
We have been blessed over the years to have great neighbors who have been very kind. Not everyone lives in areas like that and in addition, they are unable to move anywhere else. Right now in the United States to actually be living in a neighborhood near Ferguson, Missouri where there has been rioting and looting would be very stressful. In Chicago, there are neighborhoods where violence has been severe. Even though, Chicago has strict gun laws they have the highest rate of gun-related violence. Most of us have not had to deal with the threat of violence directed toward us from those living around us. I cannot wrap my mind around the kind of stress that people living in the Middle East are experiencing. Israel, Gaza, Syria, and Iraq must be some of the more stressful “neighborhoods” to live in.
One of my friends from facebook shared this about her neighbors, “When my daughter was in the hospital, our neighbors were praying for her. They come check on her sometimes.” This is what Jesus would have us to do whether our neighbors are good ones or bad ones: pray for them and do good to them. Jesus says in Matthew 5:43-45 NKJV, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” If we were to observe the “royal law” of doing good to our neighbors and praying for them, the result may be that we will have better neighbors. If we have better neighbors, we will have less stress and a happier life. As we see the things that are happening across this world the apostle Peter has an appropriate word for us, “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers (1 Peter 4:7).” Let us be serious about how we interact with our neighbors and always be in prayer for them.