Luke 10:27 ESV
I grew up in a community where it was common for people to interact with their neighbors. We attended each other's baby showers and birthday parties and I played with neighborhood children. Looking back, I wonder if some of the camaraderie between us was because, back in the day, we needed each other.
In 1967, when my parents moved from Indiana to a little mission church in Arkansas, the house they lived in didn't have a telephone. If they wanted to make a phone call or if someone needed to reach them with a message, it all went through a neighbor's telephone. They didn't have family close by or a large church family to depend on (nor lots of money to take care of all their needs), so they depended on their neighbors for friendship and help.
I have to confess I have not carried that on very well with my own little family.
I admire people who are involved in their communities. I believe investing in people's lives includes all people. It stirs something deep inside me when I hear about families involved in ministry to their neighbors. Families who move, in order to reach out to inter-city families and children, have my highest respect. We have not felt any specific call in this area at this point but it is something I've been bringing before the Lord and want to have an open hand to.
We probably won't all be called to some big, specific ministry to our neighbors but according to Luke 10, we are called to love them. As Mennonites, I think we often leave our neighbors with the impression that we are somehow better than all of them. I certainly do want my neighbors to see that there is something different about my life but I want that difference to be Jesus, not 'I am on a higher level and better than you'. I think sometimes something as simple as borrowing a cup of sugar or needing to use their telephone might do more for our relationships than we realize. A friendly word to the cashier, a smile or encouraging comment to the mother with the crying baby at Aldi, asking the fellow shopper at Walmart where on earth you would find matches, are all simple ways that reach out and show the people around me I am human, just like them.
There are so many more ways to reach out to our neighbors, I'm sure you could teach me! It's something I want to grow in; something I want to pass along to my children.
One last, interesting thought from John 13:35, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Actions speak louder than words. Perhaps one of the most important things those of us who are Jesus' disciples can do, is to first of all love each other well.