Be My Neighbor
At the 1992 graduation ceremonies for Boston University, Fred Rogers was invited to receive an honorary doctorate. Earlier that morning, prior to Commencement, he had delivered a Sunday morning Baccalaureate address to a packed house. Now, he was to open the Commencement ceremony by offering the Invocation, an opening prayer. Just before praying, though, Mr. Rogers stepped up to the mic and asked a simple question.
“Would you like to sing with me?”
With that, he began to sing. “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…” Rising to their feet, with their arms around one another and swaying back and forth, the 20,000 there that day sang along with Mr. Rogers, tears streaming down their cheeks, “…won’t you be my neighbor.”
There is a hunger in the human spirit to belong, to be loved, to be accepted, to matter. Jesus understood this well when He answered a simple question. “Who is my neighbor?”
“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?””Luke 10:29 NIV
Scripture makes it clear. We are to “love our neighbor as we love ourself.” But just who is our neighbor, and how are we supposed to love them?
Jesus taught His disciples to love.
“A new command I give you: Love one another.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”John 13:34 NIV
The command to “love one another” is clearly a command to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, to love others within the family of God.
The command to “love your neighbor as yourself” is followed by the story of the Good Samaritan. Though Jesus doesn’t specifically say so, perhaps the application of the story is that my “neighbor” is anyone I encounter that is far from God? I am to love those who are spiritually lost, just as Jesus loved the lost and was accused of being a “friend of sinners.”
In our ReVerb training, we use the acronym C.A.R.E. to equip everyday disciples in the skill of loving others.
A simple place to start is with your actual, physical neighbors. A few years back, I was training at a friend’s church on Sunday afternoon, and that morning they were beginning a new series on “neighboring.” The first message of the series asked the very simple question, “Do you know your neighbors?” And isn’t that a great place to start with loving your neighbor as yourself!
CONNECT: LEARN YOUR NEIGHBOR’S NAME
It might seem basic, but it can’t be overlooked. How many of us actually know our neighbors by name? We know the names of everyone in their home. We know what they do for work. We know where they’re from. We know their hobbies. We know if they go to church or not. We’ve actually stopped long enough to have a conversation with them, not just wave to them as we drive by or shout hello to them from across the street.
Wouldn’t it be a great goal for each of us to get to know every single one of our neighbors by name. When Jennifer and I moved into our neighborhood here in Florida twenty years ago, our neighborhood was just being built. Everyone was new, moving here from somewhere. We had a map of the neighborhood, and as we would take walks, when we would meet a new neighbor, we would write their names down on the map. It became our neighborhood prayer map. We’d greet new neighbors as they moved in, introducing ourselves and bringing them a plate of homemade cookies or brownies.
I must confess. Over the past twenty years, as old neighbors have moved out and new neighbors have moved in, we haven’t done as good of a job at keeping up with everyone’s names. We need to rebuild our neighborhood map.
A great resource for “love your neighbor” strategies is artofneighboring.com
ASK: LISTEN TO YOUR NEIGHBOR’S HEART
One of the simple skills we need to learn, if we’re going to love our neighbors, is the art of asking good questions. Some time, make it a goal to read through the Gospels and write down every time Jesus asked a question. Jesus was always asking questions.
During this COVID-19 crisis, asking what at other times might seem like deeply personal questions now seem very appropriate.
“How are you holding up?”
“Is this weighing pretty heavy on you?”
“How is this affecting your job?”
“Is there anything you need?”
“Is there anything I can do for you?”
Maybe the best question you can ask your neighbor right now is, “How can I pray for you?” If they do open up and share something, then ask, “Would it be OK if I prayed for you right now?” If they are OK with you praying for them right then and there, make your prayer simple and short, maybe even just 30 seconds. “Dear God, I want to pray for Steve right now. I ask that you would give him peace, and that he would be able to get back to work soon. I pray that he would sense your presence and know that you care for him. In Jesus name, Amen.”
RESPOND: LOOK FOR NEEDS YOU CAN MEET
In The Great Commandment Principle, David Ferguson identifies the 10 Valid Needs we all have as human beings.
As you look at that list, which looks like the greatest need your neighbor has right now? What could you do to meet that need?
It’s really as simple as this. See a need. Meet a need. Open your eyes, Take off the blinders. Have your Holy Spirit antenna up. Be aware, and ready to respond.
ENCOURAGE: LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE
There’s so much bad news. People are feeling stressed. People are experiencing loss. A positive, hopeful attitude and a kind, encouraging word can make a world of difference.
“Anxiety weighs down the heart,
but a kind word cheers it up.”Proverbs 12:25 NIV
I love the Apostle Paul’s words about the impact of our attitude and how it is a reflection of Christ. Having a positive, hope-filled attitude that spills over with kind, encouraging words will make us “shine like stars!”
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus… Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky….”Philippians 2:5,14-15
When we C.A.R.E., learning our neighbor’s name, listening to our neighbor’s heart, looking for our neighbor’s needs, and letting our light shine, we’re actually doing the difficult but rewarding work of cultivating the hard-packed spiritual soil of our neighbor’s soul. God uses every act of neighboring to prepare our neighborhood for a spiritual harvest.
It’s a beautiful day to be a neighbor!