When confronted by the Pharisees about which commandment was the most important, Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
In Luke’s account of this question and answer game, one smarty pants teacher of the law tries to test Jesus and justify himself by asking, “Who is my neighbor?” This got me thinking, if Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves in our day (and the Word of God does just that) would we have to ask, “Who is my neighbor?” If loving our neighbors is second only to loving God, we had better know who those people are, right?
This all sounds pretty basic, but we live in a culture of hyper mobility, consumerism and fierce independence. Quite frankly, it seems much easier to simply wave at the guy in the yard next door as we pull into the garage.
However, the easy way out is never easy. This way of life is killing us! Our culture is full of social problems that are caused or fueled by this kind of isolation and all the stuff on Amazon.com can’t meet our deep need for connection and community. It seems that Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as we love ourselves is a key to our own well-being as well as the key to the health of our communities. The wisdom of Jesus is timeless!
In April, the staff and I were able to attend the Inhabit Conference in Seattle to learn how other Christ followers around the country are loving their neighbors, seeking the Kingdom and changing the world. So, since the mission of Love INC is to mobilize the church to transform lives and our communities In the Name of Christ, we thought we would share our top five tips for stepping into the “art of neighboring” as a means of obedience to our Lord. These are not in any particular order but we hope they will get your imagination going!
1. Learn the names of eight neighbors who live closest to you.
That includes those who live to each side, behind you and across the street.
2. Spend more time in your front yard.
Say “hi” to anyone who walks by. Walk across the street to meet someone out in their front yard.
3. Pray for your neighbors.
Pray for their well-being. Pray for opportunities to interact with them. Pray for ways to share the gospel in word and deed. Pray that God would stir your heart to truly want to love them.
4. Perform at least one random act of kindness for a neighbor each week.
Put out or take in a neighbor’s garbage can. Bake a batch of cookies and share them with your neighbors. Give away some of those home grown zucchini that you will have in abundance this summer. Offer to watch a neighbor’s pet when they go on vacation. The options are endless!
5. Invite a neighbor over to share a meal or desert or a simple cup of coffee or tea.
This is for the courageous! And, how sad that randomly inviting a neighbor over is so unusual in our day. We have holy work to do in our call to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Pastor and author Randy Frazee says this in the forward to The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside your Door By Jay Pathak, Dave Runyon. I leave you with this bit of inspiration as you strive to love your neighbors as yourselves:
“I am convinced that living in close community with our neighbors is the best way to live. The command to love our neighbors lies at the core of God’s plan for our lives, and when we follow this mandate, it changes everything. The journey begins when we choose a lifestyle of conversation and community over a lifestyle of busyness and accumulation. It’s about making room for life and choosing to befriend those God has placed around us.”