Do You Know Your Neighbor?

I have moved a lot. My brother and I compete on who has moved the most. He wins in distance (can’t compete with his time in Nigeria and UAE … I think he went there not on missions or church work but to beat me in the game.). But I think I beat him in number of abodes.  I blame my father for this. He moved a lot too. I don’t remember anywhere over 4 years – often even shorter.

But to move on (no pun intended) … as I have relocated through the years, I really can’t remember many of my neighbors. And interestingly, the closer I lived to people, the less I really knew them. Oh, I knew work habits of coming and goings, I learned entertainment preferences (thin apartment walls share that information), and I learned food choices by aromas and trash, like which pizza establishments they liked by the empty boxes.  But I didn’t really get to know … them. 

Where I live now, neighbors are not so close physically, but I know them by name and more (except the ones directly across the street who just looks out the window and doesn’t open the door when I come by – maybe Covid put them on the defensive?) I am actually getting a new neighbor. They are putting in their new abode this very month. I’ll have to get to know them too!

BACK TO THE POINT … I grew up more on Captain Kangaroo and Looney Tunes and less Mister Rogers. But, let’s be honest, Mr. Rogers is the “MAN”, the GOAT, the neighbor we all want. I once read that his station wagon was stolen. However, when the car thief learned it was Mr. Rogers, he returned the vehicle with a note of apology.

And what is Mr. Roger’s theme phrase? – “Won’t you be my neighbor?”

The Bible talks a lot of getting to know our neighbor, of having a spirit of hospitality. 

  • Leviticus shares When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt
  • In the Greek, hospitality is from the word that literally means “love of strangers”
  • We are told that in entertaining strangers, we might be entertaining angels
  • Jesus hung out with a variety of people, making use of their hospitality and encouraging us to be caring and hospitable
  • Hospitality is a Spiritual gift (though not limited to those with such gift)

We are in a world where are more likely to hang out with like minded people. But we are encouraged to not show preferential treatment – we are to love others. Jesus was the great example of this. 

I get birds of a feather – but that is NOT what hospitality is all about.

Previously (6/29/2018), I wrote some practical ways of showing hospitality. These are directed more to connect with guests and church neighbors but the principles fit well – just substitute “neighbor” for “guest.” Let me just repost those here …

– Make a list of those inside and outside your church/organization that you would like to encourage through an invitation for a meal. (Individuals, a family, a specific subset (singles, military spouses, college students away from home, seniors, shut ins, international students, business travelers at local inn, etc)

– Put it on your calendar to start as soon as possible. If you put it off, it will be forgotten.

– Think spontaneous too. Invite the first time guest right after church.

– Pray for joy through the process and during the time of interaction with your guest.

– Be flexible, it doesn’t have to be at your home. Think hanging out at the local diner, have a coffee or smoothie (can you say Sweet Frog). Or maybe just a serendipitous gathering. I love the ‘turquoise table’ story I heard on the radio last week. A delivery truck left the heavy picnic table in the front yard. The home owner decided to leave it, paint it turquoise, and use it to connect to her neighbors. Within minutes, neighbors stopped by and the rest is history. This practice is spreading … around the world!

– Don’t be discouraged at ‘no’ or if it has speedbumps. Just keep at it and let them know they are valued. Stay at it. Romans 12.13 says to be constant, or persistent in our practice of hospitality.

– On a smaller scale, it could be simple sitting with guests at church, be part of greeter/connection ministry, etc.

There are no strangers here – only friends you have not met!

William Butler Yeats

Bottom Line – We are blessed to be a blessing. Hospitality is a way to do that. Get to know your neighbors!





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