Well I must admit... over the past 4 years or so I haven't been a good neighbor. I guess "good" is somewhat of a relative term, so let me explain. I am not the type of neighbor who blares music, or has parties 'til the break of dawn, or piles trash up in front of their house, or any of those other annoying things that we all would dislike if our neighbors were to do them. Historically, at least over the past few years, I have been the neighbor who stays to himself. I will throw a smile at my neighbors when I see them, or a wave, or a "How ya doing?!" without any regard to how they are actually doing. So, I guess to some people I might be the perfect neighbor; a neighbor who doesn't bother anyone and who doesn't want to be bothered, but I would not classify this type of neighbor as a good neighbor.
The "I will leave you alone if you leave me alone" attitude is what the typical LA neighbor encompasses. We Los Angelenos are busy! Many of us work well over the traditional forty hours a week, we go to school, we often times have a variation of school and work, we have social lives away from our homes, we have hours to travel in traffic to get wherever we are going, so when we get home it is time for our families or ourselves and nobody else. Although this sounds nice and is the way I lived my life for a while, it is WRONG!
A few months ago I had one of those moments when you realize that you have consistently been failing in an area of your life for an elongated period of time. It was the culmination of sermons I had been listening to, passages of Scripture that continually surfaced, and talking to friends of mine who had been making a difference in their neighborhoods that made me realize that I was a horrible neighbor. The God of the Bible has always been about using His people to make His name known at the location where they were residing. Even though I would go out and invite people to church, evangelize, and try to meet peoples needs (which are all great things to do), I would never do it in my own backyard to people I have the ability to see and communicate with on a regular basis. As I realized this failure, I didn't begin to feel shame or guilt, rather I felt joy and excitement. Somewhere I read His (God's) mercies are new every morning; therefore I was excited about the prospect of re-neighboring my neighborhood. Although I was excited, I was also a bit reluctant. I mean, I have lived in my apartment for nearly 2 years; how awkward is it for a neighbor of yours who has been MIA for the last couple years to one day knock on your door and be all buddy-buddy with you? Nonetheless, I realized I had to get over my pride and reluctance and as NIKE says, "just do it!"
My wife and I decided that, for the very first time, we would make cookies for everyone in our apartment building for Christmas. So, we went door to door with our cookies and a little note on the back of an invitation to church in a bag. Some people were home and some were not (so we just hung it on their doorknob), but the response was absolutely amazing. People were extremely grateful and in the weeks after the initial cookie gift I have come to see that most of my neighbors now chat with me on a regular basis. One of our neighbors bought our daughter a Christmas gift and brought us tamales on New Year's Eve. Another neighbor stopped by this week to borrow a can opener, so we decided to buy him his very own can opener (I know, awesome gift). The reason why I share this is not to tell you if you give your neighbors cookies they will bring you cool stuff or to encourage you to buy kitchen appliances for people because its nice, but it is for the sake of the Gospel! As I intentionally try to bless my neighbors the good Lord only knows what will come of it. Perhaps I will get to lead them to Christ, perhaps I will get them to go to church, perhaps they will ask me why I act the way I do and I can tell them because Jesus is my Lord and my example, perhaps they will just think I am nice, perhaps they will avoid me, I don't know; but what I do know is that people have needs and people want to be cared for and I have the ability to meet needs and care for people because all of my needs have been met in Christ Jesus, to Him be the glory forever and ever! The Lord knows that I am probably not the neighbor that my neighbors love quite yet, but I do pray that I become that neighbor. I pray that I and we as Christians would gain a greater understanding of what it is to be a blessing because we have been blessed and that we would function out of that understanding. If you are like me and realize that you could very easily be doing a better job in the ministry of neighboring, I encourage you to take a step of faith and do something for your neighbors. Regardless of how long or short you have lived in your neighborhood it is never to late to start, you may very well be the only person on your block that knows that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life!
Are you the neighbor your neighbors love? Or are you becoming the neighbor your neighbors love?