How to Be a Good Neighbor
- Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Editor's note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon's book The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door (Baker Books, 2012).
In what’s known as the Matthew 22:34-40 Jesus says all that’s truly important can be summed up in love – loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and loving your neighbors as yourself.
It’s often easier to obey the first part, because God is perfect and easy to love when you get to know Him. But the second part is more difficult, since sinful people can be hard to love.
The good news is that when you answer God’s call to reach out to your neighbors in love, He’ll help you every step of the way – and in the process, both you and your neighbors will be blessed. Here’s how you can be a good neighbor:
Realize who the term “neighbors” includes. In the broadest sense, your neighbors are all of the people you encounter as you go through life. But your literal neighbors are the people who live close to your home – those in your actual neighborhood – and Jesus wants you to do your best to love them.
Recognize the benefits of reaching out to your neighbors. You’ll enjoy a closer relationship with Jesus when you obey His commands (such as the one to love your neighbors), and you’ll experience His love in new and powerful ways. You and your neighbors will be able to connect your stories to the greater story that God is creating in the world. Finally, developing relationships with your neighbors will help you all feel cared for rather than isolated.
Pray for compassion and flexibility. Ask God to help you notice and care about the needs of those who live near you, and to empower you to be flexible with your daily schedule so you can accommodate your neighbors.
Make room for new relationships in your life. In order to have enough time and energy available for reaching out to your neighbors, you must create space in your life by letting go of activities that aren’t as important as loving your neighbors. Ask God to help you move from a lifestyle of busyness and accumulation to one of conversation and community. Adopt a slower pace of life so you’ll have some free time and energy available to use regularly to develop relationships with your neighbors. Ask God to help you say “no” to some good activities that aren’t really important so you can focus on what’s most important, like spending time with your neighbors. Make relationships a high priority in your life, and build your schedule around activities that will help you invest in your relationships. Identify time-wasting activities in your life (such as watching too much TV) and eliminate them to free up more time for developing relationships. Be flexible about your daily agenda. Ask God to help you be willing to be interrupted and inconvenienced by your neighbors so you can really love them when God wants you to do so.
Overcome fear. Since the unknown often scares us, it’s natural to feel afraid of approaching people you don’t yet know. But keep in mind that very few people are actually dangerous; they’re usually just normal people with interesting quirks. Remember, too, that God has placed desires to be known, accepted, and cared for into every person’s soul, so your neighbors will likely welcome your efforts to get to know them. Pray for the strength you need to overcome fear, take the initiative to break through the isolation in your neighborhood, and start relationships with your neighbors.
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