Look, There’s a Neighbor

by APC on June 08, 2016

Do you live in one of those neighborhoods that has a “wave at everybody” mentality? Everyone is enormously friendly—you can’t help but smile when you see people?

I appreciate the sense of community emulated by certain residential areas—gathering at the end of the driveway on weeknights for a quick chat, bonding over a backyard bonfire, pitching in to heave snow after a blizzard, assembling for a 4th of July parade, or gathering all the kids together for an Olympic game of firefly catching.

My husband and I have a great neighbor relationship with the families living on either side of us. We all “house watch” when someone’s gone, bring in garbage cans, swap goodies at Christmas, and help with the occasional home/lawn project.

Whether we realize it or not, many of us get locked into the cultural neighbor mindset. We draw imaginary lines around our homes, neighborhoods, communities, etc. and deem that as our area of effort, expenditure, energy, or emotion…

We define neighbor as someone in close proximity, whom we might see every day, and warrant those people the worthy recipients of our graciousness. We’ve jumped ship to the true idea of neighborliness and adopted a less-effective, and ungodly ideal that we practice religiously day after day.

Yes, I’m being a bit harsh, but can I tell it like it is? I’m sure we’ve all lost track of the times we’ve heard messages preached on the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37). But, do we listen and actually practice the principle behind the parable? Do we really see everyone we come in contact with as our neighbor? Someone we are to love and care for without limitation—someone that doesn’t live within a 2-house or 2-block radius from us?

Would we spend hours raking someone’s lawn that we’ve never met? Are we inclined to talk with a random individual about their problems in the checkout line at the local grocery store? Can we flash a genuine smile and wave heartily at the person who just cut us off in traffic? Are we willing to invite someone into our home that probably could use a shower and a change of clothes?

Or, are we confined to a physical neighborhood?

A coworker of mine shared a humorous story with me regarding her young son. She would often point out the folks living on her street and say, “Look son, there’s a neighbor.” Identifying the neighbors became a regular practice, but unbeknownst to her, her son misunderstood the contextual reference of neighbor. Then one day, when she and her son were out running errands, her son pointed at a random person—unfamiliar to either of them—and proclaimed, “Look mom! There’s a neighbor!” To her son, anyone was a neighbor.

We all need to assume this child’s mentality and recognize that anyone we see is a neighbor. We need to identify them as such, and treat them as such. Jesus isn’t a respecter of persons (Romans 2:11)—and we shouldn’t be either.

Can we be a servant to everyone we meet? Let’s challenge ourselves to see the world as a big group of “neighbors” that all need love, attention, and our help. That’s truly the neighborhood God always had in mind.