I met my beautiful bride through our old school district and we have two beautiful daughters together. Some would certainly argue that our daughters were our third and fourth children, considering our attachment to our two other four-legged miniature dachshunds.
At the risk of ageing myself…sing along…even if you don’t know the words:
It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be… my neighbor?
Ah, yes good ol’ “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood!” For one of the first times in my life I felt “old” the other day when I discovered my daughters watching “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” on Netflix. I tried to explain where the cartoon’s concept came from, and if you have no idea what I’m talking about either, simply take two minutes and Google or Wikipedia “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”….I’ll wait.
Neighbors and neighborhoods have been consuming my life recently. My family is in the process of attempting to purchase a home…or should I say we are in the process of signing our name to multiple versions of the same exact document, while obtaining financing from an institution which will allow us to live in a home for the next 30 years as long as we make our monthly mortgage on time. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy change when it comes to fresh starts and new beginnings. My wife and I were ecstatic at the thought that we could literally end up living anywhere in the Phoenix valley. Jokingly, I informed all of my colleagues that they better be nice to me as I might end up being their next-door neighbor!
We often define our neighbors by those who live in our proximity. Perhaps it is those with whom we share walls with when living in an apartment community. If we live in a home, our neighbors may be defined as those that we pass when we walk our pets up and down the street. Perhaps you define your neighbor as any student whom your resident assistant has been assigned for the school year. The point is, I would imagine that most individuals have very specific people in mind when they think of the word “neighbor.” Jesus lists the need to love our neighbor as ourselves directly after loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind.
And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
If such importance is placed on the act of loving our neighbor, and we are commanded to do so as Disciples of Christ, it may be important to clearly define the word “neighbor.” The Biblical definition or example of being a neighbor varies in definition from the typical social perception of the word. In order to challenge our cultural definition of the word “neighbor,” I wanted to share a response that Jesus shares in Luke 10:29-37 when asked, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus responds by telling the story of “The Good Samaritan.” If you are unfamiliar with the story, I recommend reading through it, as it will only take a moment of your time. In the parable, the one who proved and defined “neighbor” was a complete stranger who showed mercy. It wasn’t defined by a common group of people belonging to the same HOA, or a group of people on our same dorm room floor; in fact, it wasn’t defined by proximity at all. Yes, it is important to love and show mercy to these neighbors as well; but our neighbor also consists of the individual who cut us off in traffic on the way to work or class this morning. Our neighbor consists of the coffee barista who took your order as you waited in line for a caffeine fix. Our neighbor consists of individuals who share the same elevator ride in a parking garage. Our neighbors can be total strangers, who need to be shown love and mercy. After Jesus finished telling the parable of the Good Samaritan he stated, “You go and do likewise.”
My challenge to you is to be intentional and consciences of how many neighbors God places in your daily life. Realize that every interaction can be a way to help out someone who has been metaphorically beat down by everyone who passes by. Are you willing to be the Good Samaritan? How can you begin to show mercy to your new neighbors?
It’s such a good feeling to know you’re alive.
It’s such a happy feeling: You’re growing inside.
And when you wake up ready to say,
“I think I’ll make a snappy new day.” <snap, snap>
It’s such a good feeling, a very good feeling
The feeling you know that we’re friends.
Seriously, if you are not singing along…please Google it!