Are you a good neighbor or a bad neighbor? I’ll be honest and say that I have not always been the best neighbor. My kids have ridden their bikes on other people’s lawns and my dogs have done their business without me carrying a dodo bag to clean up after them.
Part of the reason our country is so torn apart right now is that people have never learned how to be good neighbors. Instead of building bridges they have built walls. Instead of showing love they have harbored hate. Instead of intentionally listening and learning they have hung out “no trespassing” signs. If you want to build a better community it starts with your heart.
Jesus gave two clear commandments that Mark recorded: “30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-32
Jesus spoke this to his Jewish followers who were really good at neighboring with their fellow Jews who looked like them and talked like them and acted like them but terrible when it came to neighboring anyone who wasn’t Jewish.
The Jews did not like the Samaritans because they were half Jewish and half Gentile. They didn’t like the Romans because they worshiped their emperor. They didn’t like the Greeks because they had their own Greek gods. So when Jesus commanded them to love their neighbors he was referring to loving everyone regardless of their skin tone or ethnicity or socioeconomic status. This was a radical statement back then and it still is now.
You are capable of loving where you live if you choose to see your neighbor as a child of God. Your neighbor was created in the image of God just like you. God designed everyone and every color of human being there is.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27
When you choose to see other people as God’s creation it changes your perception of them. You will begin to feel compassion for them, love for them, and forgiveness because God tells us to forgive those who have hurt us. You might not every become best friends, but you can do your part and see them as a human being created in the image of God.
There was a long standing show on T.V. called Mister Rogers Neighborhood. In the late 1960’s segregation had been abolished, but black citizens were still not embraced as equal participants in public life everywhere. Martin Luther King had been assassinated in 1968 and many community pools across the country still refused to let blacks swim with whites. It was in this tense atmosphere that Fred Rogers performed a simple but meaningful act which aired on May 9, 1969.
Rogers invited Officer Clemmons, a black actor who played a police officer on the show, to join him and cool his feet in a small plastic wading pool. When Clemmons sat down and placed his feet in the water, right next to Rogers’, the two men broke a well-known color barrier. When Clemmons took his feet out of the pool, he used Mister Rogers towel to dry his feet and then Mister Rogers used the same towel to dry his. It was a powerful statement. He was teaching the world how to be a good neighbor.
Loving where you live includes loving your neighbors. Do something to build bridges with them. Here are a few examples of bridge building:
Mow the neighbor’s lawn
Watch their kids
Watch their dog
Care about them as a person
Pray for your neighbors by name every day.
Bring the love of Christ to a world that desperately needs to see it.