Luke 10:25-28 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,”
Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
How can you love your neighbor when their dog barks all night long?
Hot summer nights, swamp cooler blowing, windows open, 2am, just like clockwork, wrruuff, wrruuff, wrruuff… That’s the sound of the German Shepherd coming from the neighbor’s yard directly behind us.
I sleep-walk to the kitchen window to see what’s going on. All their lights are off, but the big dog is wide awake.
Irritated I walk outside and try talking to him, “Hey, what are you doing? Come here boy! Shut up!” The German Shepherd won’t be reasoned with. Even praying he will experience peace and go to sleep. Nothing works. I can’t imagine the owner isn’t hearing this.
The only problem with ear plugs is your ears weren’t made to wear them. You know that “ear fatigue” you get after a few hours.
Put all that together and you’ve got a recipe for boiling anger. After a few nights I’m imagining the neighbor must be on drugs or a drug dealer or out of the country. And I’m imagining the dog dying from some unknown cause…
At the same time I’m thinking “love your neighbor as yourself.” What does that mean? I’ll love my neighbor better when his dog stops barking.
Finally I decide (last resort) to go over to “meet the neighbor.” I spend a little time praying. “Lord, help me to love my neighbor. You know this guy. Is there something you’re trying to tell me in this situation?” It is amazing how prayer, thinking about what Jesus says, and talking to somebody can reframe everything.
One afternoon I finally walk around the block and knock on his front door. A guy comes to the door, looks half asleep. I introduce myself and begin to “nicely” describe the situation. “Hey, I wanted to meet you. I live right behind you. You may not know this but…”
Come to find out he is an Aurora Police Officer who works the night shift so he’s been gone every night this happens and had no idea. His wife recently left him. He profusely apologizes and says it won’t happen again.
Ok, I’m a jerk. My neighbor is now my new friend and whenever I see his dog I’m reminded to pray for him.
I didn’t do so well in my heart, mind or actions. But meeting and talking to my neighbor changed everything. Maybe it was a great lesson in “love your neighbor as yourself;” in how talking to my neighbor disarmed most of my frustration, and seeing him as a person (beyond “owner of stupid barking dog”) brought much needed perspective and compassion.
Yes, I’ve got another barking-dog-neighbor story that didn’t end so well.
But Jesus was right in saying “do this and you will live.” It literally meant “do these things and you will have the kind of life I give.” Every situation is different. Getting out of my comfort zone and meeting my neighbor was exactly what God had in mind. Maybe He was using the barking dog to bring a neighbor around the block to a guy who was at the end of his rope? And revealing to me how far I had to go in loving God and loving my neighbor. Discomfort and irritation is sometimes the pathway to experiencing new life.