There’s something really great about the sights and smells of the farmer’s market. Just recently my wife and I were on a short trip to New York City over Valentine’s day weekend. As we strolled the city in the frigid February air, passing through Madison Square park, we crossed an intersection and into our view from around a towering office building, came the sight of a sprawling farmer’s market, bustling with vendors, New Yorkers, and probably a lot of people like us–tourists.
What makes farmer’s markets so great? It’s the goods. The fresh flowers and foods. But at a deeper level it’s something more. It’s the harvest and our participation in it. Human beings have a primal urge to sow and reap, to gather a crop, to bundle the fruits of their labor. To a farmer, the harvest represents a year’s worth of planting and tending, of watching and waiting and wondering. When the last sheaf is bundled and the storehouse is full, the farmer feels a sense of satisfaction and gratitude.
Most people are not farmers, so wandering the farmer’s market, selecting and bagging our purchases, or just taking in the sights, is as close as we come to bringing this kind of harvest home. But that part we play in gathering the crop is itself an expression of our God-given longing to do something with our lives: to sow and reap a harvest of significance. When we come to the end of a year, or to the end of our lives, we want to have something to show for our efforts. We want to gather the fruits of our labor, and we hope for an abundant harvest.
We may not be farmers, but this same kind of primal longing for the harvest, this innate urge, exists in us in a different sense. Our neighbor is the harvest.
No matter where we live, we have neighbors, even if you live in some remote area. And the reason is our neighbors are the people closest to us. Martin Luther, the protestant reformer, very famously called our spouse our “first neighbor.” And Jesus says that to “love our neighbor as yourself” is the summation of the Law. But we don’t always love our neighbor as we ought.
We are to honor our parents. Be faithful to our spouses. Submit to authorities and look out for the welfare of our employees. We are to help and improve our neighbors possessions and protect their reputations. We are to defend the “poor and the widow.” God richly and daily provides all our needs. He gives us house and home, possessions and employment, devout spouses and children. He richly and graciously provides all we need and does so out of Fatherly divine goodness. If we are to be holy as he is holy, we must do the same for our neighbor.
But according to one recent survey of Americans, “Very few say they know their neighbors’ names. Even fewer report interacting with them on a daily basis.” There’s data that shows that “only about 20 percent of Americans spent time regularly with the people living next to them. A third said they’ve never interacted with their neighbors.
They arrive home, tired from a day’s work, turn the key to their locks, and shut the door. They live in proximity to us, but we never experience their presence beyond a wave of the hand. You probably have neighbors like this. How can we love people we never get to speak with?
Two things are true. We have a God-given longing for the harvest but at the same time, we don’t always love our neighbor as we ought. We’re not always working for their good.
But God’s grace can and does change us: The love of Christ compels us to love our neighbors.
Why?. My next several posts here will explain, but here’s a sneak peak. Be sure the check back or click the subscribe button to be notified as soon as its posted!
- Because Christ calls us to love our neighbor
- Because Christ commissions us to love our neighbor.
- Because Christ loves us, his neighbor.