Recently my wife, Cindy, and I were asked, “Can you call your neighbors by name?” The most basic meaning of the word “neighbor” is one who lives near or next to another, a fellow human. Cindy and I found out that, after living in our neighborhood for three years, we could name only the people who lived two doors down from us.
We live in a cul-de-sac where there are 11 houses and 27 people. I drive through my neighborhood daily to get to my office to develop strategies to expand the kingdom of God in our cities and region. But I rarely talk to my neighbors.
When a man asked Jesus to name the most important commandment in the law of Moses, this was His response: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Matt. 22:37-39, NLT). How can we love our neighbors if we don’t even know them?
When I have had brief conversations with some of my neighbors and they found out what I do for a living, I could tell that there is a barrier between them and the church. Cindy and I began to ask how we can break down these barriers and build relationships with those who live closest to us.
We decided to begin the process through acts of service and kindness. For example, we decided to snowplow our neighbors’ sidewalks—God sent plenty of snow in 2014!—and Cindy recently baked some sweet treats over Easter, packaged them up and delivered them house to house. She was determined to learn our neighbors’ names.
These simple acts of service and kindness are already yielding positive results. People are responding with invitations to share their pool and to have coffee. And we expect that even more opportunities to be neighborly will pop up. It takes creativity, courage and a little bit of time to love your neighbor—but the returns are great!
Now as I leave my neighborhood to develop strategies to reach 43 million people in our district, I’m reminded that my mission starts with the 27 people who live right in my own community. I must be concerned about my neighbors.
Can you name your neighbors? I encourage you to look down your street and pray for opportunities. It really is a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
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