This week our church hosted the meeting of the Downtown Church Connection. I had the opportunity to bring a greeting to our friends and neighbors and tell a little bit about our church. I shared with them about our brave and humble beginnings back in 1882 (We have been in the neighborhood a long time!) and shared a brief word about our glimpse of our shared future.
I talked about how we have the opportunity every Sunday due to our generational and ethnic diversity to “practice heaven on earth” and also that we strive and long to be “good neighbors.”
Being a good neighbor stands out as one of the greatest ambitions of life, and one of the simplest ways to put our faith and love into practice.
I resonate with the quip of the old English columnist G.K. Chesterton who wrote decades ago:
“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.”
Seriously proximity does not always lead to love and affection, but it certainly creates the opportunities.
One day a religious nut and expert inquired of Jesus how to inherit eternal life. Turning the tables Jesus asked him, “How do you read it?”
The expert nailed it saying: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27 NIV)
Jesus commended him, and challenged him saying “Do this and live.” Sadly the expert wanted to “justify” himself—not a good idea when you are standing in front of Jesus—and inquired “Who is my neighbor?”
In response Jesus told the story of the beaten and dying Jewish man lying beside the Jericho road. To his dismay the priest and the Levite passed by on the other side of the road.
This was shocking but nothing compared to when Jesus recounted how a Samaritan, the arch enemy of every God-fearing Jew, stopped and rendered aid, even taking him to an inn nursing the wounds until morning.
Now Jesus asked the question. He asked the expert “who do you think was the neighbor to this man?” No even able to articulate the words, the expert sheepishly replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
In mind’s eye, at this point Jesus smiled and said, “Go and do likewise.” As you can see bring a good neighbor has more to do with the heart and actions than how close our houses or apartments are to each other.
Being a good neighbor costs…it costs you love…time…getting your hands dirty…maybe even your heart broken. Being a good neighbor means caring enough to get involved because you care. Let’s be good neighbors and make Jesus smile.