Posted By: Tim Mannin
ENTRY SEVEN in our writing series, EIGHTEEN, which is all about some of in's and out's of this church.
The vast majority of us have little to NO relationship with our neighbors.
Most of them are nameless faces that we know more about their habits of yard care than about who they really are.
We occasionally wave, or we may have had a conversation or two with them, or maybe we’ve even gotten their name at some point, but chances are we’ve forgotten it. Then comes that awkward situation where when you see one another you have to say – “Hey bro! Hey maaannnn… how are you? Hey girl…good to see you! Howdy, neighbor - the yard is looking great!"
I want you to think about your neighbors right now.
I want you to determine how many neighbors do you actually know their name.
Go ahead and think…go up and down your street.
I wonder how many of us are in the 0-2 category? 3-4 category? 5-8 category? More than 8 category? A group in Denver has worked really hard at trying to determine how well people know their neighbors. They’ve found that the vast majority of people know 0-2 of their neighbors names. And only 5% of people know 8 or more names of their neighbors (meaning 8 households).
So the natural question for me is…Why is this?
Is this something that has always been a challenge for people?
Well one challenge that I believe is timeless – that even Jesus spoke to is the natural instinct for most of us is to become very individually focused. We can get caught up with our own lives, our own families, and our own interests and responsibilities and as a result spend little energy on generating new relationships or in real basic terms putting effort into loving others, much less “loving our neighbors.”
So the timeless challenge we face is our natural instinct to be individually focused. But I also think we face some cultural challenges that make loving our literal neighbors more challenging. A few things that have changed in the past 50-60 years that make knowing our neighbors a bit more challenging are:
- Air Conditioning – we spend more time in our homes because it’s more comfortable
- The size of homes – in the past 30 years the average American Home has grown from about 1400 square feet to 2400 square feet – all the while the size of families has shrunk. So we have less people living in larger spaces – causing ourselves to stay more secluded in our miniature castles.
- Technology has changed many things – sources of information and news don’t come from Town Squares and coffee shops, no they come from our iPhones, computers, and televisions all conveniently accessed from within our wifi equipped homes.
- Garage Door Openers – People can literally drive up their homes open their garage doors, pull into the garage, shut the garage, go into the house and never step outside of their home for weeks.
- Busy Lives – today we live at a more hurried pace than possibly any other time in the history of the world, so we simply don’t value knowing our neighbors. We have other responsibilities and relationships that we’ve chosen as the priority.
Simply stated about our neighbors…we act like they just aren’t important enough for us to know them.
Yet, Jesus said this,
“…Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.
Loving our neighbor is central to what it means to follow Jesus. There’s no skirting around this command from Jesus. We must do better.
In October of 2013 – OKC Community adopted our first cause as a church. There are so many wonderful causes to adopt and we will get involved in things like: orphan care, clean water, human trafficking, global hunger, etc… But our first cause is: LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR.
What if we could become the best neighbors that our neighbors have ever had?
What if we started by learning our neighbors names?
Step One: Learn your neighbors names.
(Move from Strangers to Acquaintances)
Step Two: Initiate and allow natural conversations to form.
(Move from Acquaintances to Friendships)
The natural instinct for many Christ followers is to think that this is some strategy to reach people and get people to our church. Sure we always want people to come to know Christ and be involved in a church…but what if this was more out of a natural hope to be the people that Jesus called us to be. People of love. In order to do that, we would simply love our neighbors with no agenda attached and no covert mission hidden in our conversations. We must trust that God will lead the relationship and guide us in our interactions.
Love. Your. Neighbor.
A simple, hopeful, and beautiful way to be human.