One of my favorite TV shows is HGTV House Hunters.
It’s a reality show following a couple interested in buying a home. The realtor takes the couple around to a few houses and then the couple has to pick one to buy. It’s fun to watch the couples dicker back and forth about the important things like, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, two sinks in the master bathroom, a big yard, three car garage, finished basement and proximity to the big city.
One question that you never hear the couple ask the realtor about is, “How are the neighbors?”
I think this is interesting, because good neighbors can make or break a good neighborhood. We’ve lived in 10 different houses over the past 33 years and we’ve had pretty good luck with most of our neighbors. Some we still keep in touch with weekly!
The reason I’m digging into this topic of neighboring, is I just finished reading a book called, The Art of Neighboring, by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon.
The premise of the book starts in the office of the mayor of Denver. The pastors gathering wanted to make a difference in the community where their churches were. The question they asked Mayor Bob Frie was “How can we as churches best work together to serve our city?” They had some discussion, but the bottom line from the mayors perspective was that, “The majority of the issues our community is facing would be eliminated or drastically reduced if we could just figure out a way to become a community of great neighbors.”
The pastors left that meeting a bit embarrassed. The mayor told the pastors to best help the city was in essence obey the second half of the Great Commandment — “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The pastors brought their findings to the churches and began a movement in the Denver suburbs of basically being more neighborly. In the book there is a website that talks more of their findings (www.artof neighboring.com).
So, how can I start to be more neighborly?
Well, the first place to begin may be asking yourself a question. Believe it or not, this question may hurt a bit! The question is, “What are the names of my neighbors? It’s a simple question, but I imagine right now you are squirming a little. Can you give the first and last name of your five or six closest neighbors? Do you know how many kids they have? What they do for a living? What are their hobbies? Where did they live before they moved here? Can you list any in-depth conversations you’ve had? What do they fear? What are their spiritual beliefs and practices? Did you know that only about 10 percent of people can list the names of their five or six neighbors? And only about 1 percent knows the deeper questions asked.
When Jesus was asked to sum up everything into one command, he said to love God with everything we have and love our neighbors as ourselves. Most of us have turned this simple idea of loving our neighbors into a nice saying, putting it on bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets and then going on with our lives without actually putting it into practice.
What would happen if every follower of Jesus took the Great Commandment literally? Is it possible that the solution to our society’s biggest issues has been right under our noses for the past 2,000 years? Who are your neighbors? Love them to Jesus!
John McNabb is a pastor at Minnetrista Baptist Church.