Amy Lively, author of How to love your Neighbor (Without Being Weird) says, “I had every excuse for not loving my neighbor, and a few I’m sure God had ever heard before– but I couldn’t find an asterisk or exception to get me off the hook. After months of arguing with God, I finally knocked on my neighbors’ door and invited her over for coffee. When it was my neighbor’s turn to knock on my door I found they were just as nervous as I was. We learned each other’s names, we laughed, we talked, we shared, and these neighbors walked out of my door as friends.”1
But in this overextended, overstressed, independent world, how do we initiate relationships with our neighbors? It can be difficult to strike up a conversation with a neighbor, initiating a potentially embarrassing and awkward situation, especially if you have nothing in common. It is hard to believe that just a few decades ago, the nighttime ritual involved neighbors getting together on each other’s porches, shooting the breeze over a cup of chilled pink lemonade while kids played stickball in the alley until the street lights came on.
Those were simpler times. Parents thought nothing of sending their kids out to play “until the street lights came on.” However, today’s technological age vies for our and our kids’ attention and robs them of the innocence and wonder of exploring their worlds through their senses and using their imagination to create activities to relive them of their boredom. Don’t you wish you could reclaim this lost art, spending nights and weekends attending block parties and borrowing a cup of sugar from your neighbor without fear of embarrassment? If only there was a way to reclaim this lost art.
Maybe there is.
God commands us to love our neighbors, both the ones on our streets and the ones who sit next to us on a Sunday morning. Matthew 22:36-40 says, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Maybe your relationship with your neighbors will never go beyond a morning wave on your way to work, but as Christians, we are still commanded to love the people God puts in our path.
Here are a few ways you can fulfill God’s most important command without tacking it onto an already overscheduled life:
Write a note– In this day and age, people are more suspicious than ever about what might be lurking inside a welcome basket. Gone are the days when a neighbor could give a basket brimming with luscious fruits or candies without resisting the urge to split each goodie in half to look for mysterious materials. Sometimes a quick note and gift card can suffice. A simple note stating you are happy to have them in the neighborhood and giving them a night off can speak volumes in your love for them. This may pave the way for a neighbor to knock on your door to express their gratitude—and for you to open the door to a new relationship.
Start a Facebook group– Conduct a simple search on Facebook to see if your neighbors utilize the social media site. Create a group of neighbors and discuss topics on how to improve your neighborhood, put out the feelers for interest in get- togethers and discuss pop culture topics as a way to get to know your neighbors’ likes and dislikes. This gives you something to talk about when you bump into your neighbors on your nightly walk or an opportunity to roll down your window when you see them going to their car. Every conversation matters and brings you one step closer to a new friendship.
Crafters Unite- I’m not terribly crafty, but even I love an excuse to get out my adult coloring books and crayons and relax. Do any of your neighbors paint, draw, read or scrapbook? Ask to meet to create together, rather than separately. If you don’t participate in these hobbies, is there one you have always wanted to explore? Meeting a neighbor is the best reason ever to learn a new skill or indulge your crafting side on a regular basis.
We are all called to love our neighbors as ourselves. Now you have a reason to merge beloved skills with a desire to fulfill Jesus’ greatest commandment.
1 Amy Lively. How to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird. (Bethany House Publishers, 2015). P. 5.