"Love Your [Next-Door] Neighbors" - Abbey Nishimoto
As a child growing up in a church environment, I remember the phrase, “Love your neighbor as yourself” being used often. We were asked to love our homeless neighbors by donating to a Thanksgiving food drive, love our fellow student neighbors by being considerate, and even encouraged to love our neighbors in developing countries by donating money for a water well. But for all these various and broad interpretations of the word “neighbor”, I don’t remember the phrase being applied to the neighbors who lived next door! We were so concerned about loving our far-flung neighbors that it’s possible that we neglected the neighbor nearest us.
As a society, we interact much differently in our neighborhoods than in years past. We tend to retreat to our back decks rather than a front porch. We make a quick dash from car to front door and don’t emerge again until the morning dash back to the car. A brief wave or quick trip to return mixed up mail may be our only interactions for weeks, or even months.
Within this culture shift, it can be incredibly awkward to attempt “neighborliness” for the first time. I remember when my husband and I moved into a new neighborhood and invited our new neighbors over for a housewarming party, there was a good bit of confusion, and even suspicion! But awkward first impressions aside, our lives were deeply enriched by the relationships with those neighbors. Unlike other type of friends, there’s a natural intersection with neighbors on consistent basis. Casual conversations over the fence, a quick trip to borrow an egg, or a kid’s birthday party create organic opportunities to show Jesus’ love to those that may never darken the door of a church. Even if a spiritual conversation never happens, being a good neighbor strengthens the fabric of our community and combats the creep of loneliness and despair that threatens so many.
In his earthly ministry, Jesus gave us a pattern for the ministry of presence and proximity. He ministered to those directly around him, whether they were his disciples, townspeople, or religious leaders in the synagogue. So this Lent, take some time to be a good neighbor. Start by praying for them, and then by learning their names. Maybe consider making the time to strike up a conversation with just one neighbor… you may be surprised at what comes of it! Let’s not forget the second greatest command that Jesus gave us, and focus some effort on “loving our neighbor(hood)”
HOW TO PRAY:
Pray that God would give you an opportunity this week to help or encourage someone who lives on your block.
Pray for your neighbors who live next door to you
Mark 12:31 “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
About the Author: Abbey Nishimoto is a Bellflower neighbor who loves her city.