The religious leaders were trying to trip up Jesus with a question. “What is the greatest commandment?” they asked. They knew there were 10 commandments as well as hundreds of other rules that required obedience. Jesus said, “There are two. Love God and love your neighbor as yourself”.
My wife Carla and I attended a conference at which author Philip Yancey was speaking. He challenged us not to only think of “loving our neighbor” as those laudable, grandiose acts of service such as foreign missions, but to love our actual neighbors – those sharing our same street. Yancey admitted he knew very few of his neighbors – as did we – so we became convicted to act. This was in November a few years ago.
We mapped our neighborhood and discovered we have 18 “neighbors”. We then assembled plates of holiday treats – cookies, bars, etc., selected a Saturday just prior to Christmas and traveled around our neighborhood knocking on doors and handing out our treats.
Our neighbors were surprised, pleasantly, and graciously accepted our gifts. We put a greeting card with each tray so after we’ve left and the surprise has worn off, they’ll remember who stopped at their house. I think we were as stunned as some of our neighbors. We really weren’t sure what we were doing.
In the years since, this completes our fifth round of the neighborhood, I’m not positive things have changed for our neighbors, but it certainly has for me. I know longer drive down the street coming home from work with tunnel vision. I feel responsible to watch for, wave and greet my neighbors, after all not to do so would be rude. We’ve had a more conversations with our neighbors lately than in earlier years.
This year, I asked to take pictures of some of our recipients. It took us nearly 4 hours to complete the journey, missing a few neighbors (we caught up with all by one the next day) as we were invited in at nearly every home and had heartfelt, pleasant and even tearful conversations with our neighbors. We may be at a pivot point with the whole thing. I wonder where this might lead?
No idea, of course. But I really like the idea of loving our neighbors. Who knows? With the little community building we’re doing, something awesome might come from it?