Jesus told us to love our neighbor.
What if He really meant we were supposed to love our actual neighbors?
You know who I am talking about? It’s the guy who never seems to tell his dog to stop barking in the middle of the night. It might be the family that goes “shopping” in your garage and decides to use your lawn equipment without asking. I’m referring to the guy who drives his huge truck way too fast past where your kids are playing. It’s the people on the other side of the apartment wall who play their music so loud it’s killing any peace and quiet for you.
Your response to Jesus’ command to love others might be… “That’s easier said than done!” It’s possible that you have now created a whole web of excuses to explain why you don’t have to love your actual neighbors.
Our family takes this command of Jesus seriously, by being responsible to love the people that live on our block. We see our neighbors as people who have names, a story and needs that we can either meet or pray for. While we have been working at this for almost 13 years in our current home, it has never ceased to be a great challenge. At times it has bordered on impossible, as we have had legal issues, restraining orders, theft and mistrust with different neighbors over the years.
Philippians 4:13 tells us that we can do everything through the power of the Holy Spirit who will strengthen us. We have seen incredible fruit over the years as we have prayed for our neighbors, sought to love them, and meet their needs when necessary. We have shared the gospel and our lives as well (1 Thess. 2:8).
Just two days ago my wife met our new next door neighbor. Linda immediately noticed the very large Buddha on her necklace and knew right away that this new neighbor has different beliefs than we do. She explained that even though she has only lived their one day, she is ready to take the tree out between our homes. I can tell that this will be a challenge to love her.
Our other next door neighbors have been there for years and we have had many bumps in the road with their family. The older members of the family don’t speak English, and the younger two generations are working hard to be accepted into American culture. Conversations can be difficult and things get lost in translation.
As I sat watching the baseball game, relaxing from a busy day of interacting with people, there was a knock on the door. It was my neighbor’s 17 year old son who asked if he could interview me about politics and American government for school. I was tired, but I saw this as an opportunity to be kind and help him. So, he came in the house and sat on the couch with me. A 10 minute interview turned into an hour worth of discussion. It was clear that he wanted to connect with me far past the few questions that were on his worksheet. This was an opportunity to build relationship and let love transcend the difficult relationship we have with his parents and grandparents. He was joyful, thankful and smiling at the end, and I blessed him as he left. I realized that I was planting seeds for Kingdom of God as I loved and listened to the next door neighbor kid.
What opportunities will you make the most of where you live this week? Will you stand and linger at the mailbox to start a conversation? When you see a neighbor working in their yard, will you go and say hello and ask them how they are doing? Will you be inconvenienced to show the kindness of our God and represent Jesus well?
God is calling us to live in our neighborhood with purpose. He wants us to be attentive to needs, to pray and ask God for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done. We have experienced life to the fullest, and others have to hear about it and see a picture of it lived out in our lives!