Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
A couple of weeks before we got married, my wife began to move in some of her items into my townhouse. As we were pulling out of the driveway that day she interrupted our idle chatter, “Oh and I can’t wait to meet your neighbors!”
I sat silent. She gave me her frustrated face. I tried not to look back at her.
“You don’t know your neighbors yet?!”
“No,” I said with a twinge of guilt.
“You’ve lived here almost four years, and you haven’t even said hello to your neighbors?”
“I’m busy. Besides, they don’t want to be disturbed either,” I attempted with lame rationalization.
“Honey,” she said with a bit more graciousness, “You should know your neighbors.”
Erin and I have totally different backgrounds. She grew up in the same small town her entire life. She lived in two different houses, yet both were on the same street. I moved about every 2 to 4 years to different states. She has deep roots. I never planted them. She knows everyone in her town, and we cannot go anywhere without someone coming up to us and saying hello. She once had a 10 minute conversation with the teller at the bank through the drive-through microphone. I never even gave a passing thought to knowing the person who lives across the street, much less did I know the teller at my bank.
In Luke 10, a lawyer questions Christ, asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. The answer: he must love God with his entire being. Christ then adds that he must love his neighbor as himself.
The lawyer retorts to save face after his trick question backfired, “And who is my neighbor?”
Christ then tells one of the most popular parables in the Bible, the Good Samaritan. A priest and a Levite, religious figures in the community, pass by a man in need. It was the Samaritan, an outcast in their society, who decided to come to the man’s rescue. The Good Samaritan was the good neighbor.
Our society has become much more mobile. And people are moving to different towns with greater frequency over further distances. The Wall Street Journal reported in October 2006 that people drive 79% more miles than they did in 1982, while roadways have only increased 3%, creating a frustrated commuter society living in permanent gridlock. People get home late in the evening, open their garage, and go right inside. It has become almost a hassle to know your neighbors.
Despite my own frustration in this area, I believe my wife is correct (Four weeks into marriage and I’m learning this line well). We should know our neighbors. We may have to schedule time with them, take the initiative, or simply make an effort to say hello. Christ calls us to be good neighbors. And this call extends beyond our own subdivisions, condos, and apartments. It is a call to the world. Because how will people ever see Christ exemplified in our lives if we don’t show them?