Our neighbor moved and put his home up for sale. While people have come by to look at the house, every time, after they’re done, they linger outdoors. If they see me, they check me out, perhaps with a wave or a hello. They are asking themselves what kind of neighbors will I have? Our neighbors matter when we ask questions about them such as, “Is this a fun neighborhood? Is it a quiet neighborhood? Are there children for my children to play with?” This is important. We want good neighbors.
But what about my role in the neighborhood? Will I add anything to it beyond keeping my yard up and the noise down? Where we live matters. When it comes to following Jesus, this may be the most important question we can ask. I may think that where I live is only about personal taste and keeping my personal space. But more that where I am the most important thing is how I am. How can I be a good Jesus follower here, in my neighborhood? This is often the last question we ask in a “live and let live” world. I am not suggesting that you are not already being a good neighbor, but if we are here to help people know God, I think we all need to be a little more intentional about neighboring.
I realize I have to change. I have to be intentional about neighboring. So now I go out of my way to talk to my neighbors AND know their name. It’s a little awkward since I’ve talked with them and exchange names before. The thing is they don’t remember my name either. So I am on a neighbor quest. I’m working on getting to know two new people and their names per week. Then I am trying to connect a little deeper with two people per week that I may know.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind and with all your strength AND love your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
This was part of a conversation that Jesus had with a religious leader. These same words came from Jesus mouth, but here the man recites them back to Jesus. Trying impress Jesus. “I know, I know the answer! This will be impressive!” The man is asking what is the one thing I must do? What is the one thing that I can check off my “being a good person list” and get eternal life?
But this is not how Jesus operates. Neighboring is not about trying to prove you’re a good person. The word for love that Jesus introduces is a rare word. A word spoken by Jesus and repeated in the New Testament. It is called Agape love. The word for love of God and love of neighbor is the SAME word; agape. A love without restriction. A love without exclusion. It’s the SAME love. With the same intensity I love God, I am to love others. This DEMONSTRATES that I really love God. For Jesus said, if you love me do what I say. What does he say? Love one another in the same way I have loved you! Agape without restrictions, without conditions.
Then Jesus said, now go do that.
Jesus calls us to intentional neighboring. Neighboring as a verb does not exist in the English language. But for Jesus followers it is verb not just a noun. Neighboring is what we do. It is not just that we live near people, but how we live near them. Jesus has called us to know and care for people. When asked the most important question of life. Jesus answered that we are to love God with all our being and love our neighbors as much as we do ourselves. So the questions shift from what are my neighbors like to what kind of neighbor am I? Will I neighbor?
My neighborhood, the city I live in is only as good as I make it. The relationships are only as good as the effort I put in. I am asking you to join me. If you’ve not been a good neighbor, confess it, own up it, get over it and get going. When neighbors are neighboring the neighborhood is safer, people feel good about where they live and feel good about being involved. Ultimately, then we can be in a place where conversations about Jesus and your story with him may just come up.