In this 6 minute audio reflection, I look at passages in Deuteronomy and Acts to show that God has always wanted his people to be neighborly towards each other: serving, working together, and taking care of the needy among them.
In contrast to the "expert" who sought to minimize the category of "neighbor," Jesus teaches us that our neighbors are anyone we encounter who needs mercy.
Last Sunday I introduced the concept of four transformational relationships. My point was simple: if we will commit ourselves to growing in relationships with four "categories" of people--as defined clearly in and by scripture--we will be transformed.
The four categories (or areas) of relationship are: with God, with other believers, with neighbors, and with strangers. You can find more about these four transformational relationships, including my presentation outline and slides, by clicking the link. The actual presentation can be streamed or downloaded here.
Below the graphic I explain how to begin practicing, or living, these four transformative relationships.
Building off this outline, I recommend starting with your relationship with God. Because we are dealing with spiritual relationships (not merely social) our base point must begin with God. I suggest combining your regular worship attendance with a regular commitment to prayer and bible reading. You can begin simply: prayer can be either intercessory or thanksgiving, and your bible reading can be as little as one chapter each day. But begin. It's the beginning of this process and the time that you carve out for it that create the space for God to teach you and draw in to a deeper, growing relationship with him.
Next, I suggest that you focus on one of the other areas of relationship. Suppose you want to develop transformative relationships with other believers. The associated action for this area is mentoring relationships. One of the best ways to achieve this is to attend one of our bible classes on either Sunday morning or Wednesday evening. At the bible study you will be around other believers. You can then invite one or two of them to join you for coffee where you can discuss the lesson further or talk about your bible reading our spiritual growth. Look for others that you can share something with, but be careful to realize that this is a two-way street: you need to receive also, not just give.
You should be regularly participating in your relationship with God and in at least one other area. You balance this out with occasional work in the other two areas. For example, you can practice evangelism with your neighbors (biblically, your neighbors are anyone you encounter with a need) merely by being friends with and serving co-workers, family members, and even geographic neighbors.
In the bible (primarily the Old Testament), "strangers" refers to foreigners or those who pass through the land. Symbolically for us, "strangers" are those who pass through our lives. I recommend that we seek to serve them in order to leave the impression of God's love upon them. You can accomplish this by volunteering somewhere, walking your neighborhood and seeing what develops, or by some other way that puts you in contact with people that you will not see too often. Make it your goal to serve them in a gentle, humble, and loving way.
To grow spiritually, you need to take action. God calls us to action. Jesus told us to "go and do likewise (Luke 10:37). These four transformative relationships balance our spiritual growth and help us to grow and minister in the areas of relationship the bible instructs us in.
Please pray about how you should begin this journey...and then begin!
To grow spiritually, we need to regularly engage in four different areas of relationship: with God, with believers, with neighbors, and with strangers. This graphic describes these four areas by focusing on a core thought, a key scripture, a leading action, and several examples of each.
My personal view is that we should always be focused in our relationship with God and at least one other significant relationship in one of the other three areas. We can supplement this with ongoing activity in the other two relationship areas.
By taking action, we'll grow.
What do you think?
Peter Lovenheim, In the Neighborhood (Perigree, 2010).
In Luke 10, after sending the 72 out on an evangelistic mission, Jesus teaches about neighborly conduct. In Jesus' understanding, being a neighbor is, or at least opens the door for, the mission.
Yet, we often would like to take the evangelistic mission without the charge to be a neighbor. After all, does it really matter? If we preach or teach and the person makes a decision, isn't that enough? But it was this mindset that Jesus challenged when he taught about being a neighbor. When we seek to justify our behavior we have missed Jesus' mission. Being a neighbor means being proactive and involved--the Samaritan used his time, resources, and money to help someone who, under different circumstances, would have been an enemy. We are encouraged to go and do the same.
Peter Lovenheim wrote an interesting book called In the Neighborhood. After hearing about a neighborhood family involved in a tragedy (a murder-suicide while the children were still in the house), he realized that he did not know the family and that likely no one in the neighborhood did. This realization set him upon a goal of creating a community within the neighborhood he lived in, to enable and help physical neighbors become real neighbors to each other.
The book is very enjoyable and a quick read. Lovenheim sought to learn more about his neighbors by spending more time with them, even including sleeping over at their homes! As he began to meet his neighbors more he began to become aware of needs and he was able to make neighborly introductions between neighbors.
One neighbor he met had cancer. He realized that to be a neighbor to her he was going to have to help her. One chapter is devoted to this quest. In that chapter, he states that "the real measure of success of my whole effort [to neighborize the neighborhood] would be if someone who previously did not know Patti...woud join me in helping her out. If that could happen...we would have a real community" (204). Thanks to Lovenheim's work, it did happen. Patti and several other neighbors connected and Patti did not have to struggle alone.
I really enjoyed this book. It left me with several ideas I am thinking through:
"If we all cared about our neighbors, we could change the world one street at a time" (236).
Let us go and do likewise.
This blog is for articles and book reviews. I post my sermons at my Sermons page, where you can listen to sermons online or download them in MP3 format.
Although I work for the Otisville Church of Christ in Otisville, Michigan, this blog represents my own thoughts and does not necessarily correspond to the views and workings of the Otisville Church of Christ.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.