A Christmas resolution

Plain and simple, I didn’t like my next-door neighbor, and I felt I had good reason not to. In fact, none of the neighbors liked him. I knew this because we frequently shared our unpleasant dealings with him. Whenever it came time to contribute his fair share of the expense for repairs of shared property, such as fences and trees, he would always flat-out refuse to cooperate. Furthermore, he had often rented his home to people who were loud and disruptive to the neighborhood. 

Last year an accident caused by a third party resulted in quite a bit of damage to both our properties. On Christmas Day my neighbor came to my door and said that we should look over the damage. I got my coat and went with him to check it out.  

After we had examined the heavily damaged fence and yards, he once again felt it necessary to tell me he had no intention of working with me to take care of the needed repairs. I felt myself getting very angry and upset, yet thought it best not to say anything but to just walk away.  

Returning home, I thought to myself, “You must be kidding me! Does this guy even know it’s Christmas?” I felt it was my duty to tell him what I thought of his behavior over the years, and I had every intention of doing just that!

I found my heart filled with the love that God intended His children to have for one another.

But it suddenly occurred to me that I should pause and reconsider. Shouldn’t I be thinking about a more merciful and generous response? After all, that’s what I’d expected from him. 

That night I opened my Bible for spiritual guidance, as I always do. The first thing my eyes fell on were these words: “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8). They were written by the Apostle Paul, who faced troubles way worse than mine, and yet managed to follow what Christ Jesus identified as the second great commandment in the law, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39).

Paul’s words were a much-needed reminder that the conflict with my neighbor would be resolved only through my obedience to this commandment—by seeing my neighbor as God sees him and loving him as God loves him. This doesn’t mean forcing ourselves to try to love an uncooperative or belligerent mortal, but rather seeing our neighbor as he truly is—the perfect, spiritual child of God. It also means acknowledging all the good qualities each man and woman includes as God’s image and likeness, such as patience, cooperation, and kindness. Mary Baker Eddy explains in her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, that this is exactly what Jesus did and taught us to do. She wrote,“Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God’s own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick” (pp. 476–477). 

The transformation that took place in my thought about my neighbor was immediate. The animosity I had felt just melted away. I found my heart filled with the love that God intended His children to have for one another.

I felt immense gratitude to God for this resolution.

The next day, I’d just finished talking to some passersby on the sidewalk when I saw my neighbor walk toward me. To my surprise, he stopped and said, “I want you to know that I am ashamed of the way I have acted over the years, and I will pay my fair share to repair the damage on our properties.” Then he turned and walked away. I don’t remember if I said anything, but I do remember feeling immense gratitude to God for this resolution.

The following day, my neighbor came over to my house and asked if I would like to see the work he was doing in remodeling the interior of his home. We spent about an hour looking over the work, and he again apologized for his past behavior. I assured him that it was behind us.

Today my neighbor and I continue to have good relations. In fact, recently he came by to tell me he has rented his house to a family he feels will contribute to the goodwill of the neighborhood. As he was leaving, we shook hands, and I thanked him for being a considerate and caring neighbor.

Every time we find peace with our neighbor, there’s a little more peace on earth.

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