My current book selection – The Art of Neighboring – gives us a small, but very eye-opening exercise through which we can self-evaluate how we’re practically living out that commandment Jesus said sums up all of the law and the prophets (loving God and neighbor).
The exercise consists of filling in the chart below with the specified information about your eight closest (in distance from your house) neighbors:
a. Names (as much as you know)
b. Surface information about them you wouldn’t know unless you talked to them once or twice
c. In-depth information you would only know after really connecting with them
What would yours look like? Here’s mine as of February 2014, and I’ve been living at my current house for 4 years…
Pretty bad, huh? I haven’t even gotten to “c” with half of my neighbors and it’s been 4 years! In fact, the authors shared some statistics with us about these charts:
- About 10% of people can fill out the names of all 8 of their neighbors
- About 3% can fill out line B for every home
- Less than 1% can fill out line C for every home
You really don’t have to go any further than this (although you can!) to put your finger on why the spread of God’s Kingdom is failing in our culture. It was said that the world would know God by the love that His children have for each other. Well, it’s kinda hard to love people when you don’t know their names; and it’s kinda hard to love people you don’t see very frequently. Oh, and it’s also hard for people to see you loving each other when you’re driving to a commercial campus building to do the loving.
If you really want to live in the Kingdom, getting to know your neighbors and how you can love them is the place to start. Trying to get to know, love and do life together with people who live in scattered residences isn’t practical.
When you don’t know your neighbors very well, it will start with little things like sharing extra food or filling a need that you can very clearly identify (like shoveling snow for an older person). But over time as you work to develop relationships with them, deeper issues will inevitably arise that will require more time, money, energy and sacrifice. Now you’re starting to live in the Kingdom.