The Link Between How One Views Their Neighbor and What it Means to be a Sinner

Have you ever noticed how the Bible links how we interact with our neighbor and what it means to be a sinner?

Check out the first half of this verse…

Proverbs 14:21b (ESV)
Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner…

The Hebrew word for despises in this verse can also be understood as “to hold as insignificant,” along with some other ways of rendering this term. Suppose we replace despises with this other way of looking at it. Here’s how the verse would read…

Proverbs 14:21b (ESV)
Whoever holds as insignificant his neighbor is a sinner…

When you read the verse this way, it becomes even more convicting. At least, to me it does. I can’t say that I all that frequently “despise” my neighbor. But, I can certainly admit that I could do a better job of not being indifferent to them or hold them as “insignificant” as frequently as I do. What I mean by that is, it’s very easy for me to get caught up in my own life to the point that I don’t even notice the people around me. And, when I don’t… the Bible says that I’m a sinner.

That’s thought provoking, because those in Christ are now labeled as something different…

Ephesians 2:19-21 (ESV)
you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

Here are some other references to believers being referred to as saints…

Acts 9:32 (ESV)
Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda.

Romans 15:25 (ESV)
At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints.

Ephesians 1:1-2 (ESV)
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Colossians 1:1-2 (ESV)
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

Jude 1:3 (ESV)
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

Saints are to be Saints

Saints are to act like saints, not sinners. Therefore, we (Christians) must be cautious to avoid despising or holding insignificant our neighbor. Instead, we saints must do well by fulfilling the royal law…

James 2:8 (ESV)
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

Godspeed, to the brethren!

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  1. Excellent post!

    The Jews considered only those in their covenant community as their neighbors. Outsiders were dogs. This is why Jesus taught the parable normally referred to as “The good Samaritan” – to teach the true meaning of the word.

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