Mirror, mirror on the wall, would my neighbor miss me at all?
It’s a question worth asking. If I were to move, would my neighbors see that as a loss? Would they notice? Worse yet, might they be relieved? Especially for those who follow Jesus, it is important to think through what type of neighbor we actually are. And not from our perspective, but from those living closest to us.
Christians ought to be the best neighbors anyone could ask for. If Christ’s life is indeed being formed and shaped in us, we’re learning to listen. We’re committed to forgiveness. We’re characterized by compassion. We freely share and lend in the conviction that nothing we own is ultimately ours to begin with. It should be a great thing, regardless of one’s personal lifestyle, beliefs, or background, to live next door to a believer in Christ. Is that your neighbor's experience?
We’re not raising the question to condemn. We’re not asking in attempts to motivate people to neighbor out of guilt, pressure, or obligation. Neighborhood Church waves the banner of neighborhood engagement because Christ says loving our actual neighbors is directly connected to loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We love because we’re loved. And if we find we’re not loving where we live, perhaps we’re struggling to believe the heart of the gospel--that God first loved us. Deeply. Genuinely. Enough to move toward us in unconditional commitment to knowing and being known by us.
To steal a phrase from authors Rusaw & Mavis, “We love our neighbors [simply] because we are Christians, not because we are trying to make the Christians.” Or as Pathak & Runyon put it, “We don’t love our neighbors to convert them, we love our neighbors because we are converted.” Or to use the Apostle Paul’s words in the present tense, “We love you so much that we are delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well because you have become so dear to us.” We unconditionally love our neighbors from the exact love that has been freely demonstrated and given to us who share Paul’s testimony in Galatians 2:20.
In reality, it becomes question of location and intentionality. Where do you live? And are you actively loving where you live? It’s nearly impossible to love someone without knowing their name. It’s hard to love without noticing things about the one you’re committed to loving. It’s completely impossible to love without listening. It’s unusual to love without giving to, sharing with, and even receiving from a person you love. And at the end of the day, it’s really hard not appreciate someone who genuinely loves you. Which brings us back to the question, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, would my neighbor miss me at all?”
Rusaw & Mavis co-author The Neighboring Church
Pathak & Runyon co-author The Art of Neighboring
The Apostle Paul writes these words in 1 Thessalonians 2:8 (NIV)