This is a story of two homeowners and their different outlooks on life.
The first homeowner lived in a neighborhood that was quite old and had seen generations pass in and out of the homes. While they once stood together in newness and promise, and while each governed by the agreed-upon neighborhood covenants to keep the neighborhood looking nice to maintain their value, times had changed.
Decade upon decade of wear and tear and neglect had taken its toll.
The neighborhood covenants had been long since forgotten, or not even really known, by the majority of those who lived in the neighborhood. And as a result, the neighbor-hood deteriorated.
The first homeowner was living in a house that had been handed down for several generations. He knew intimately the neighborhood covenants that governed the neighborhood, and he burned with anger how his neighbors were either ignorant, or intentionally neglectful, of the neighborhood covenants.
Everyone was well aware of his displeasure — and he went out of his way to let them know about it. He believed, with every ounce of his being, that he needed to take a stand for what was right against anyone and everyone who was responsible for the decline and the devaluing of the neighborhood.
He would go outside with his hands on his hips and stare in disgust at his neighbors and at the way they chose to live. He wrote letters to the editor of the local newspaper and made indignant Facebook posts about how others in the community should join him in taking a stand against the people in his neighborhood who were neglecting the covenants.
On many occasions, he went out of his way to make copies of the covenant, posting it on every neighbor’s door.
He even went to the city council in order to get an ordinance passed that would force his neighbors to comply with the original covenants.
The homeowner took a stand against every single person who violated the covenants. Everyone in the neighborhood, and a growing number of people in the community, hated this man and resented his antagonism and judgment.
Truth be told, some of his neighbors were actually unaware of the original neighborhood covenants but didn’t want anything to do with this man or his cause (no matter how right he may have been). Others had known about the neighborhood covenants from long ago but decided to ignore them in spite of him.
Everyone was tired of his negativity, tired of the signs in his yard, tired of his rants in the media and tired of his self-righteous attitude.
They began standing up to him, fighting fire with fire. But when they did this, he cried out that he was being unfairly persecuted.
Little did he know that his neighbors and the city council were working to get rid of him. And get rid of him they ultimately did. The around-the-clock protests, intimidation and threats of litigation were too much.
So he moved.
It wasn’t long before someone new purchased the vacated house. The new homeowner was told by the previous homeowner all about the neighborhood covenants before he moved in.
But unlike the previous homeowner, the new homeowner did not lose any sleep about the neighborhood covenants not being followed by his neighbors. He had a much different perspective. Rather than tell people all the things they were doing wrong or not measuring up, he decided to walk alongside them, get to know them and teach them a better way.
He realized there was a richness in getting to know his neighbors and their children. There was value in getting everyone together so that they could get to know each other. And there was a joy in teaching the neighborhood children through his example how to care for and maintain a house and property.
It was a beautiful thing.
The homeowner was so well-respected, because of his love, grace, and care for his neighbors, that they would frequently reach out to him to ask questions about how to improve their houses. He was happy to teach and help. In fact, some of his neighbors learned so much from him that they began helping other neighbors on their own. People were helping one another, teaching, training, and cooperating to improve the entire neighborhood.
The neighborhood, once a place of negativity, hostility and division, was now a place full of life, vibrancy, restoration and hope because of the love, grace and example of one man.
He never once had to use the neighborhood covenants to tell people how far they were falling short. Rather, he taught them through his words and example how to make the improvements and changes to their homes.
The Kingdom of God is like a humble and loving man who patiently teaches and trains others in righteousness, through word and example, for the restoration of individuals and communities.
To those who have ears, let them hear.
Columbus’ Brandon Andress is a former local church leader and a contributor to the online Outside the Walls blog. He can be reached at his website andthentheendwillcome.com or brandonandress.com.