My neighbors across the street have three lemon trees in their front yard that every year at this time are loaded with fruit — more fruit than they could possibly use, and they have encouraged us to come over and pick from their trees any time we want.
Now, Marti loves lemons. She loves to stack them in bowls around the house because of their fragrance, especially freshly-picked ones. So, she is always handing me the biggest bowl we have in the kitchen and encouraging me to go across the street and steal some lemons from our neighbors. Now, of course I’m not “stealing,” but that’s what I feel like. I just can’t get it in my head that I’m not doing something wrong; our neighbors have invited us to do this.
As I think about it, I realize it’s not the owners of the lemon trees I am worried about, it’s all the other neighbors who are watching me. I can feel their eyes burrowing into the back of my head. They don’t know that this is okay. I find myself wanting to wear a placard on my back: “It’s okay. Brian and Doris said I could pick as many of these as I want.”
Actually, it’s not all the neighbors I worry about; it’s one in particular who lives next door to Brian and Doris who is the EYE of our neighborhood. The EYE doesn’t miss a trick. I bet she’s got a network and all my neighbors now think I am a thief. I’m sure of it.
So, last night when Marti wanted me to go over there and pick some lemons, I balked. It was 10:30 at night. Surely the EYE would be out, and would think I was operating under cloak of darkness to try and hide my evil-doing. Better to do it in broad daylight. But Marti wanted lemons right away, so she volunteered to go with me as my accomplice. So, there she is in her white nightgown with a jacket thrown over her and me with a huge bowl in my arms, rapidly filling up with lemons, when, lo and behold, Brian and Doris drive up.
Now, this is actually good news, because now the EYE can see that the neighbors know what we are doing. Our activities are sanctioned. So we stand out there and talk with them a while — me with my bowl of stolen lemons, and Marti in her nightgown, and I am hoping the EYE is watching. See?
I’m making a big deal about the EYE, because I really know the EYE is not across the street; it’s in my head. The lady across the street is actually good for the neighborhood. She spotted someone breaking into a car next door and called the cops in time to apprehend them. And she’s caught kids other than Chandler throwing lemons around the neighborhood so we could take Chandler off the hook. No, the omnipresence of the EYE is what I’m projecting onto her, because in fact, according to scripture, we’ve all got an EYE somewhere in our conscience accusing us of being bad when we’re not. It makes us feel guilty when we’ve been forgiven. It forever fights against the freedom we have in Christ. It heaps guilt upon guilt in hopes of rendering us incapable of any effectiveness for the kingdom of God. That EYE isn’t my neighbor, that EYE is Satan, the “accuser of the brethren.”
Don’t listen to him. Don’t pay him any mind. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1), and you and I are in Christ Jesus. Do like Jesus did when He told Satan to back off — “Get thee behind me, Satan.”
I have an idea. I think I might take a sack of lemons over to the lady across the street and tell her, “Here, Brian and Doris said you might like some of these.” And I bet she’ll respond, “Oh, thanks, but we’ve got plenty of lemons. Half of that tree is in our yard and they told us we can pick as much as we want.”
So much for the EYE across the street. Get rid of the EYE in your head.