A long time ago I was up visiting my dad who lived in Seattle, Washington and noticed something amazing about his neighbors. First off, they knew each other’s names and stories. These neighbors knew each other’s history, habits, and hurts. They shared meals together and helped each other out. When Margaret needed her heater fixed, my dad and the guy next door worked on it through the night. Another neighbor needed to deal with a squirrel problem, and the group came up with some workable solutions that were both humane and effective. (It involved a unique trap with some kind of technology with motion detectors and such due to my dad’s electrical engineering mind and skills…they stayed up all night anticipating and enjoying the trill of the catch!). Dad would also get calls to see if he needed anything from the store because his neighbor was headed out. If someone was sick, they not only checked in, but took over meals and sat for a while if needed. Margaret pulled me aside one visit and let me know how wonderful my dad had been to everyone and how much she loved her neighborhood. These good neighbors took the time to get involved and participate with each other. It was a joy to watch and be part of for a few days…Margaret was an amazing cook!!
The reality is, according to John McKnight and Peter Block in their book, The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhood, we have moved to a consumer society where we can tend to find our satisfaction in what can be purchased and “take our identity from our capacity to purchase” (p9), taking on the notion that “what is fulfilling or needed in life can be bought,” (p9). This, according to McKnight and Block, has the potential to disconnect us from our neighbors, moving us towards isolation and loneliness. This consumer mentality causes us to be more likely to take care of ourselves and our own needs, and not to consider the needs of others. Sometimes it even keeps us from accepting help from others. The key is to participate, looking for ways to contribute to those around us and take on more responsibility for each other.
This has been the biblical challenge all along. Jesus gave this as one of the highest commands.
Matthew 22:36-40 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He (Jesus) said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
To love our neighbor like we love ourselves requires participation.
Philippians 2:3-4 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
It’s learning people’s history, habits, and hurts. It’s taking the time build a relationship. It’s true, it is not easy in today’s world and yet worth the efforts because Jesus asks us to and it builds a great neighborhood. A neighborhood that is connected with a sense of belonging.
God wants us to enjoy that reality. But it does take something of us. We have to participate.
Romans 12:9-10 9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Romans 12:15-18 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.1 Never be conceited. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Ephesians 4:31-32 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
The Bible has more on how we can be that good neighbor and participate in love. It does come down to if we are both willing and will make the time jump in. Sure it will be awkward at first, most new ventures are, but keep at it and an amazing climate of connection and togetherness will happen. You may even start a movement!! Now, you may already be amazing at this, great! Keep it up. Others of us just need to put a bit more effort this direction. Our world needs this, our country needs this, our state needs this, and your community needs this. Be that good neighbor and participate.
Church can be a great place learn and understand how to be these good neighbors and love as Jesus asks. If you are not already connected to a church, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or one of our branch churches in either Los Alamitos or Garden Grove as we are in a new teaching series called, “There’s Room: Life in God’s Family.” We are learning from the Bible book of Ephesians talking about the inclusive, loving, caring reality of God’s family. Our website has all the information you would need. www.cypresschurch.net . It would be great to have you join us.
Seeking to be that good neighbor along with you,