Friday, November 20, 2015

Learning to “Love Thy Neighbor” in Concord, North Carolina

Brendan Spaar attends North Point Community Church in Alpharetta Georgia
One of the first things you learn in Sunday School as a child are the Ten Commandments. They are the building blocks that most Christians use to guide them through their daily lives. Each commandment is meant to help followers find their way through the struggles of ever day life.  Throughout the Bible are many reminders that treating others with kindness and compassion are the most important duties of a Christian person
In the Bible, Matthew 22 says, "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." It doesn’t sound all that complicated, does it? Well, it seems some people in Concord, North Carolina are finding that part of the Bible particularly hard to live with.

The Shower of Blessings Church in Concord, North Carolina has learned that their neighbors are finding the commandment to “love they neighbor” very hard to do. It started when neighbors found out that for the past 18 months, the church has been giving a safe place to stay for several homeless families. The neighbors are upset because no one told them that the church would be providing shelter for these people.
When many people think of the homeless, they think of the negative vision we’ve seen. It is associated with crime, drug use, poverty, being lazy and unemployed among other things that no one wants to live near. However, in today’s economy, the homeless person could be someone that has simply had a terrible setback in life that has temporarily knocked them down. Brendan Spaar has found that these are the people being helped at My Father’s House in The Shower of Blessings Church.

“If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. -- Leviticus 25:35-36

The way the neighbors found out was not by seeing vagrants or an increase in crime. They were alerted by the start of construction to add 4 additional units to the church’s sanctuary to house more families. The city officials in Concord have said that the church is operating within the law but the neighbors are still not happy. Despite there being no complaints or issues reported, one neighbor was quoted as saying,” We just don't want them walking around, this neighborhood has been quiet.”

In case you’re wondering, representatives of the ministry have reassured the community that  the people being helped are not the scary visions we’ve seen on the news in other inner cities. "These are families from our communities that may have experienced job loss,” Ed Hosack, CCM executive director, said. “There may have been medical bills, the break up or loss of a family member." Mr. Hosack went on to say that all of the residents remain engaged in purposeful, intentional activities and "most of them go to work each day." Residents are screened and drug tested and the facility has 24-hour management.
My Father's House offers shelter, safety, and dignity as people get back on their feet. The Bible directs Christians to offer hope and assistance to those in need. “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “-- Matthew 25:35-40

Brendan Spaar believes that "Love thy neighbor" is not as hard as it seems. It simply means respecting others and regarding their needs as highly as we regard our own. How can we learn to “love” the guy next door with the barking dog or loud stereo, especially when we don't even like him? Maybe we should understand that our neighbor, whether it's the guy next door, the cashier at WalMart, or the person next to us at church, is  as worthy of compassion as any of us.