Won’t You Be A Neighbor?


Ben Stevens has a fantastic post on The Gospel Coalition’s blog today. (I love The Gospel Coalition. If you’re not familiar with them, check them out.)

Here are some highlights I pulled out, but you should definitely read the full post yourself:

  • It is not difficult to get to know your neighbors—it is simply not something most of us value.
  • Our homes and apartment buildings give us plenty of space in which to hide.
  • You cannot love your neighbor if you do not know that neighbor.
  • Christians ought to take this on as a project.

We Christians say we love our neighbor, but what does that really mean? Most of us don’t know the people around us, so apparently we don’t think it means our literal neighbors. I’m not sure that many of us actually understand the word love there either. So what do we mean when we say it?

I think this is yet another verse we throw around without any thought to what it means. When asked what was meant by “neighbor”, Jesus told a story. The hero of the story was a person of different race and religion; to their way of thinking he was their enemy. So at a minimum, our neighbor is someone who is not in our usual circles. So when we’re told to “love” these people “as ourselves”, what exactly does that mean? The word love there is “agape”, which speaks of a personal fondness. I think the “as ourselves” is a clue as to the intent. How do we love ourselves? We feed our own body when we are hungry, we clothe it, we care for it when it is injured. So Jesus’ command might be interpreted today as treat people who aren’t your friends as though they were. And given the example Jesus used, I think this would apply especially to those we would normally find exception for. Do we treat Muslims as friends? Do we hold special place of animus for the homeless and addict? What about people of different sexual orientation or with a career we object to?

These people are everywhere. The world is made up of other people after all. And we don’t have to look too hard – there are a whole bunch of them living next door to each of us. So why not start with them?

I like Mr. Stevens’ idea. It’s time for a block party, or an open house in your apartment complex. It’s time to be the church. Claiming the inerrancy of the bible while ignoring everything it says we should do is a problem. Read the article. To love your neighbor, you first have to know your neighbor. I think we’re pretty lousy at both.

Question: Have you done anything like this to reach your next-door neighbors? Or, does this article inspire an idea you’re going to take action on?