Becoming the Best Neighbors

loving your neighbor

Obeying the Second Half of the Great Commandment

We are currently in a unique “in-between” season of time.  The pandemic, by God’s grace, seems to be on the way out.  A new season is being ushered in.  Together, we are finally considering what it looks like to make our way into a new future.  As we do, let’s challenge ourselves not to go back to normal, but to move forward to a new normal—especially when it comes to mission.  Let’s challenge ourselves to discern and to accept new invitations from God—invitations for new life, new growth and new possibilities in the season ahead.  Let’s not expect more of the same; let’s expect God to do a new thing in and through us, starting right in our own backyard.  

Perhaps you’ve heard of the delightful resource, The Art of Neighboring, by Pastors Dave Runyon and Jay Pathek.  They share the story of how they sought to discern the best way strategy to “be the church” in their neighborhood. 

 Together with a group of 20 lead pastors in the Denver area, they held a series of conversations and meetings with local governmental leaders.  They met with their local mayor and asked: “How can we as churches best serve our city?”  

The mayor’s response went on to inspire a movement.  He replied: “The majority of the issues that our community is facing would be eliminated or drastically reduced if we could just figure out a way to become a community of great neighbors.”

So many of the challenges that our communities face are not best solved by official community programs, but rather, by a community of caring and invested neighbors.  After the meeting, one of the pastors said, “Am I the only one here who is a little bit embarrassed? I mean, here we are asking the mayor how we can best serve the city, and he basically tells us that it would be great if we could just get our people to obey the second half of the Great Commandment.” 

Because what the mayor said, of course, was no different from what Jesus said first.  He taught us that the greatest command is actually one dual command—love God and love your neighbor. 

 When it comes to mission strategy, let’s remember: Jesus was a genius.  It sounds funny to say it like that, but it’s true.  He knows exactly what it takes to change the world.  The times may change, but the basic way that the world works and the fundamental way that God’s kingdom advances do not. 

What if every follower of Jesus, in every neighborhood around the world, made it a goal to get to know and to love their neighbor—their actual neighbor, that is—in Jesus’ name?  The church is already a missional presence with outposts throughout the entire world.  What if we all mobilized right where we are to truly love our actual neighbors?  What difference could that make for the kingdom of God?

Shouldn’t it be—logically speaking—that as followers of Jesus should be some of the best neighbors around?  After all, it was priority No. 1 for our Lord. 

By God’s grace, our time of “social distancing” is soon coming to a close, which means we have an opportunity.  As disciples of Christ, let’s be among the first to reach out and pursue a new neighboring normal—loving our neighbor, as our Savior so wisely encouraged, right here at home as well as far beyond.

Read more from Michelle Sanchez »

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