Who Is My Neighbor?
But wanting to justify himself, he (the lawyer) asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:29 NRSV
This short verse was the theme of our 2016 Gathering that just happened in Colorado Springs. The question was asked in many ways and in many presentations. Rev. Tom Anthony shared his passion for moving the church back into their neighborhood. Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, TX is one of the leading churches in this movement. He challenged us to get to know our “My Five” better. Not just to get to know them but to “BLESS” them. For too many years, the church has asked, “How can we get them in here?” Our own Steve Van Ostran asks, “How can we be Christ in our community?” In his words, “How can we be the incarnational church?” Rev. Dr. John Roberts helped us dig beyond the surface reading of this text. He helped us look beneath and beyond the simple reading of this text to identify who our neighbor is. John reminded us that God places people in our lives and we have a responsibility to be a neighbor to them. Mary Tellis challenged us to be neighbors by serving our community. Fred Dyer reminded us that we take our call to be a neighbor with us wherever we go, even when we drive.
I do pretty well with “My Five.” I know their names, something about their families, and their dogs’ names. (Except for Matt and Amy who gave their dogs weird names that simply won’t stick in my brain.” See what I am doing here, “Seeking to justify himself, Mike said, “I know my neighbors . . .”
My physical neighbors are the easy ones for me, but where is God calling me to stretch? If I like all my neighbors, what good is that, even the Gentiles can do that. Who are the neighbors that I don’t even see? When does it get uncomfortable for me? This goes way beyond being able to pray for the neighbor who has a Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump sign in their yard.
Then, as we reflected on this verse, I came to realize that my challenges are not the same as others. Rev. Jeff Lundblad and I discussed the challenges he had being a neighbor in Laramie. His house is literally in the parking lot of the church. Who is his neighbor? Sometimes our mindset is typical suburbia housing, but that does not work for everyone.
I live in a safe neighborhood. What about people who don’t? What does my little sister do? She is a single mother? How she lives as a neighbor is different than what Chris and I do? It has to be.
How can we at the Region office function as better neighbors in our own building? To be honest, the only neighbor I can name at the Region office is Dr. Christ who is a dentist. I assume you understand why he (or she) sticks out in my mind.
I also don’t want to come across as Ned Flanders, a.k.a. “The Weird Christian Neighbor.” I really don’t want to be that guy. I don’t want to be that guy on the airplane, in a restaurant, or in my neighborhood.
After living with this theme for six months or more, I still have questions. I still ask, “Jesus, where am I justifying myself?” or “Jesus, how am I imposing my world view on someone else in a judgmental way?”
I still want to be a neighbor; a good neighbor. I want to go and show mercy to my neighbor. Jesus asked, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor?” “He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:37 NRSV
Lord, help me to be the kind of neighbor that honors you and my neighbor. Let me be a neighbor wherever I go. Let me show mercy to the people you place in my life, especially when it is hard.
Northern Front Range, Southeast Colorado & New Mexico Clusters
Ministry & Mission Coach