Aren't you glad that when God talks about our "neighbor," He usually doesn't mean our "Neighbor?" He means anyone we live around and happen to meet. In the developed countries of the world, most of us have reached the place where we're so advanced that we can avoid "happening to meet" our actual Neighbors, and that helps us feel like we're off the hook when it comes to being "neighborly towards Neighbors. We can focus, instead, on that cashier we meet at the store, the guy in the cubicle beside us, or the vendor at the Farmers Market.
The warm weather in our region has been bringing the Neighbors out to walk and mow like ants at a picnic. Most of the time, there's about a 20 second window of time to see and greet Neighbors when they pause at the mailbox while the garage door goes up and then they pull in only to be eaten up by the garage door and disappear. It's actually easy to excuse ourselves from reaching neighbors that are our Neighbors for reasons like:
- They're so busy, and so are we. We just don't have time to know each other.
- Our life is so full of information; no one wants to add more relationships.
- In a time of crime and stalkers, how can you trust people?
- We don't have front porches anymore, so people don't talk.
- He wears boxers to the mailbox ... how would I ever approach HIM?
- Their dog is driving me crazy; I don't want them to think I'm okay with it.
- I don't know their language; they would probably be uncomfortable.
- If they would mow their grass every now and then, I would like them more.
- They travel all the time; when could I catch them at home?
- They just pull in and out of their garage, so I don't have a chance to talk to them.
We might even play the scripture card and say we don't want to have a bad testimony, so we leave our Neighbors alone: "Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor's house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you" (Prov. 25:17)
Not to minimize the cashier or the cubicle dweller or the farmer, but our Neighbor IS also our neighbor. I came up with these excuses, because I think I've used a few of them.
"Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense..." (Prov. 11:12a). Maybe by ignoring or neglecting our Neighbors, we belittle them and reveal our own lack or wisdom. I think I've been belittling my Neighbors. Am I the only one? Even Mister Rogers had the wisdom to teach children to ask the questions, "Who are the people in your neighborhood?" and "Won't you be my neighbor?"
We're not likely to care about or know how to reach the neighbors around us if we don't care about or reach out to the Neighbors beside us. That may mean stepping out of our comfort zone, creating a new normal, and changing the standard we've created in the months of years we've lived in our neighborhood. It might even mean having our kindness rejected or ignored. But we are called to love our neighbors, and that includes our Neighbors.
We're going to take the next weeks to talk about what to do with our Neighbors. I'll still be sharing Marriage Mondays and Tasty Tuesday, but in the middle of the weeks, we'll take a look at learning to love our actual Neighbors. Then on Fridays, I have something I'm excited to invite you to do with me, and I'll take the cover off of that pot this Friday.
Praying you'll make the most of your 20 seconds today or that you'll get out with the other ants for a walk.