We got new neighbors last weekend. We had watched the ‘For Sale’ sign change to ‘Under Contract’ and then disappear altogether. We watched the rental truck pull up, the heavy lifting take place, and the empty boxes pile up near the trashcans.
It’s made me think about what it means to be a neighbor. Whenever new folks move in I feel like I should say hello, introduce myself, offer to help, take over warm zucchini bread or something. But usually I do what most everyone else does: nothing. We’re all so busy and so individualistic that we choose to leave people alone, afraid to interrupt, preferring to stay wrapped up in our own concerns.
But Jesus encourages his followers to be good neighbors. His teaching is straightforward. The familiar story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-33) is essentially a word picture used to describe what it looks like to be a good neighbor. So central and so basic is the Biblical call to neighborliness that it is an effective summary of Christian living.
The call to being a good neighbor finds its foundation and gains its power from the fact that God first has been a good neighbor to us. The story of God’s interaction with his people is a story of God loving, serving, helping, and drawing near to humanity. This story reaches its climax in the life of Jesus, who, as Eugene Peterson paraphrases “became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” When we know how God has been (and is) a good neighbor to us then we are able to be good neighbors to others.
I baked some banana bread this weekend. Later today, I’ll walk over, ring a doorbell, introduce myself, and (in a ridiculously small way) embody the neighborly love that God first showed me.