Recently I’ve been burdened about my own lack of intentionality with regards to being a good neighbor. My family and I just moved from one house in Jeffersonville to another and I was reflecting on how little I knew of my neighbors. Sure, I could tell you their names (Tom, Nancy, Mary, George, Nieda, Kenny, Rob, and Terra) and what most of them did (former major, security guard, milk-deliverer, student, etc.) and I could even tell you some personal things about several of them but by and large I know that I really wasn’t a good neighbor to the above mentioned names or the many other neighbors as we failed to engage with on any level whatsoever. I don’t think my neighbors would have said I was a bad neighbor but I don’t think the majority of them really understood what it means to be a good neighbor either, in terms of what Jesus says in the gospels.
With that in mind, I recently picked up and read The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door. It was a good, quick read and though every page wasn’t underlined there were some good things that I want to remember, in particular one exercise. Here it is:
- Picture the locations of your eight nearest neighbors – however they might be situated.
- Write the names of the people who live in the house – try to give first and last names.
- Write down some relevant information about each person that you couldn’t see just by standing in the driveway, things you might know if you’ve spoken to the person once or twice.
- Write down some in-depth information you would know after connecting with people. This might include career plans or dreams of starting a family or anything to do with the purpose of their lives.
After completing this exercise numerous times with various people all over the country the authors have observed the following results:
- About 10% of people know the names of all eight of their neighbors.
- About 3% can give some relevant information about each person.
- Less than 1% can give some in-depth information about their neighbor.
What does that mean? If nothing else it at least means that generally speaking Christians need to do a better job of loving their neighbor, which of course means that you and I need to know our neighbors. If you were to work through the above exercise how would you do? My experience has been that taking baby steps towards accomplishing a goal is more realistic than setting out to (1) know your neighbor’s names, (2) give some relevant information about them, and (3) give some in-depth information about them. May I suggest to simply start by working hard to know the names of the people that God has sovereignly placed beside you and then work on the next step? I believe if we took Jesus’ words on the 2nd commandment more seriously we would all be more intentional about knowing our neighbors for the purposes of sharing Christ with those that don’t know him or encouraging and challenging those that already do.
Do you know your neighbor?