Recently, I was told that people need a tangible reason for neighboring. Knowing that it impacts your health – for example — could be one of those reasons. Plenty of research reveals the importance of face-to-face interaction on our mental and physical health.
Neighboring is also essential to do something with others to make the world a better place. If you are civically minded but ignoring your immediate neighbors, that isn’t very honest.
Still, others understand that Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors, and they take that to heart. I am encouraged by those who do, but I still hear plenty of excuses for why American Christians do not know or love their next-door neighbors.
Consider the excuses
Here are a few reasons I have heard others give for not neighboring.
1. I am an introvert.
This is not an excuse for ignoring Jesus’s command to love your neighbors. Perhaps you begin with an indirect approach like a handwritten note of introduction to a neighbor? Maybe you spend more time in your front yard being available and visible. Ask God to open your eyes to opportunities and to motivate your heart to love your next-door neighbors.
2. Our church has no time for another program.
Honestly, neighboring is not a “program,” but is the reason God leaves us here on Earth. Jesus says our focus should be on two things: loving God and loving our neighbor.
3. Loving neighbors is not the heart of our church.
Whether or not “neighbor” is in your church mission statement, this is the direction needed for church survival. People are drawn to the church by relationships, not by parties on the church parking lot. God loves people and as followers of God, we are expected to also.
4. Our members are too busy.
Being crazy busy could be a different sermon series. Relationships happen in the margin, so we must make decisions that allow us to have margin in life. This doesn’t mean that you fill your margin watching Netflix. God has other expectations for your time as a Christian.
5. We already tried doing a neighboring thing once.
The problem with a neighbor series or sermon is that it is easy to forget. Neighboring needs to be emphasized and discussed repeatedly. If members are left on their own to “neighbor,” they will most likely pick people they already know and like while ignoring the people living next door.
6. Our members and staff want their homes to be sanctuaries.
Our homes should be used for God’s glory, just like our jobs and income. Our homes can be a place where we exercise hospitality.
7. Neighboring is a fad.
There is a lot of interest in “neighboring” after the COVID19 era. But that does not make neighboring a fad. Honestly, Americans Christians have done a lousy job of neighboring over the last several decades, and we see its impact.
8. There is nothing we can unify around on this idea statewide.
There are a couple of dates to unify around but the best one is probably National Good Neighbor Day (Sept. 28). This is an actual national holiday, signed into law by President Jimmy Carter. Many groups and communities around the nation do special events around this date. In Greene County we are planning an entire week (Sept. 26 to Oct. 2) of events and awards.