By Will Kelly
Back in November, my wife and I were blessed with our first baby — a little baby boy.
Between wanting to spend time with my family, as well as stay inside where it was safe from the freezing temps and snow, I dreaded strapping up the ol’ boots, putting on layers, and venturing outside to shovel.
Well, on one particular night in December, I stepped outside to discover that our next door neighbors were shoveling our driveway for us. There had been four to six inches of snow that had already fallen at that point, and it kept coming; let’s just say that it was not a dusting of snow that night.
When I approached them to thank them for what they were doing, they simply said, “We wanted to shovel for you so you could spend more time with your wife and new baby.” I was absolutely blown away by their kindness and thoughtfulness. In fact, I had become oblivious to the fact that temperatures were subzero because I was legitimately warmed on the inside. Sure, I had walked over to their house when they moved in just two months previous to welcome them into the neighborhood, but by no means were we well acquainted at that point.
It was then that I experienced what it meant to be a neighbor. It was a Friday night, snow falling, just before Christmas, and two people I had barely known took time to be great neighbors — loving neighbors.
Time after time, I have encouraged the students to think about others, to step outside of their own worlds for a minute and serve those around them. The few times I’ve been able to speak on a Sunday morning have ended with me charging the congregation to live out their faith. However, on that brisk December night, I was the one convicted of not being a neighbor.
Jesus had a couple of things to say about being a neighbor and serving others.
In Mark 12, Jesus says, “‘And you shall 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: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’”
We are called to love our neighbors, but also, to let our neighbors love us. It would not have made any sense for me to chase our willing snow-shoveling friends off of our property when they were acting in love just like it would not make sense for them to do the same to me if I were serving them. I truly believe that when Jesus talked of being a neighbor, He was saying you cannot be one without the other. We tend to think that being a great neighbor means doing everything for the people next to us or in our community, but what we miss is that chance to be served as a neighbor also. No matter what we do, we need to realize that we are somebody’s neighbor.
By now, you might be asking if I am advocating for only taking what’s given to us and never contributing to the community, but that’s not the case. Jesus said that He came not to be served, but to serve, and that sets a pretty obvious precedent for us. However, we tend to forget that Jesus also allowed Himself to be humbly served.
When Jesus went to someone’s house for dinner, He wasn’t the one always in the kitchen, preparing the food, was He? When He dined with the disciples, Jesus wasn’t always the one who set the table, poured the drinks, and cleaned up afterwards, was He? As I recall, there is a story in the Bible where Jesus actually has His feet saturated with perfume by a woman who wants to bless her Lord. Jesus was both a neighbor in the giving sense, but He was also a neighbor in the receiving sense. Jesus allowed Himself to be BOTH the serving neighbor AND the served neighbor, not the serving neighbor OR the served neighbor.
I think one of the reasons that the idea of letting others be a neighbor to us seems daunting is because we are taught to be independent. If we are not fully providing for ourselves and our families, then we are not truly living, yet, I would argue that life is more beautiful when we let God use others to bless us in various ways. We see this played out in Acts 2 with the early church when people were being neighbors and allowing themselves to be neighbored (yes, I said neighbored).
Well, it is now the end of May, and the sun is out in full force, along with the bugs and growing, green grass. With the grass comes mowing, and with mowing comes another opportunity to be a neighbor who is serving and a neighbor who is served. I took the lead this time and mowed my neighbor’s yard a couple of weeks ago.
Since then, he has returned the favor, and I returned it back again. It’s quite fun being the neighbor who is served and the neighbor who is serving.
Will Kelly is the Student Ministries Pastor at ParkSide Church in Waconia.