Won’t You Be?
He asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” – Luke 10:29 (NRSV)
I have bad luck with neighbors. The first apartment I ever rented was in the basement. I found out on the day I moved in that the first floor was occupied by a brass band who loved a good late night jam session.
At another place, the man who lived in next door constantly had two televisions playing simultaneously at the highest possible volume. One was broadcasting sports. The other was playing pornography. From time to time, in response to one or the other, we would hear him scream, “Lebron James! Lebron James! Lebron James!”
Maybe because of these disastrous relationships, or maybe by my nature, I am not much of a neighbor myself. I am not really present in my neighborhood, seldom share more than a smile or wave with those who live around me.
In their book, The Art of Neighboring, Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon suggest picturing your home in the middle of a grid, surrounded by eight other homes like a tic-tac-toe board.
For how many of those households, they ask, do you know the names of the people who live there? For how many do you know some basic information? How many do you know well?
I score a 2 out of 9 on names. Let’s not discuss the rest.
Jesus famously answers this question about neighbors in a way that makes loving them so much harder. (Think whoever you like least.) But I remain in Neighboring 101, just trying to overcome my fear of talking to the people right next to me. And I could use some help.
Jesus, I’ll get to the loving eventually. First give me the courage to meet my neighbors.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.