As we launched our new series The Art of Neighboring, one of your assignments this summer is the Block Map Exercise. If you’re going to neighbor well, you need to actually know who your actual neighbors are. How many of your neighbors’ names adjacent to your home do you know? How many of them do you know some relevant facts about? How many on your block map do you know something even more in-depth about—their career plans, dreams of starting a family, significant experiences in their lives, what they fear the most, or where they’re at in their spiritual journey?
The authors of the book The Art of Neighboring share this statistic:
About 10% of people can fill out the names of all eight of their neighbors. About 3% know relevant information and facts about all eight of their neighbors. And then less than 1% knows in-depth things about all eight of their neighbors. Take a step back and consider what this means. Jesus said to love our neighbors. Sure, the teaching extends to our metaphoric neighbors—people everywhere in need. This extends to the people we work with, the parent on our kid’s soccer team, and even to the person on the other side of the world who is in need of a meal. But it also means our actual neighbors—the people who live next door.
How are you doing actually loving our actual neighbors? The goal of the Block Map Exercise is to help you move from “Strangers to Acquaintances to Relationships” in your neighborhood. By the end of the summer, make it your aim to know all eight of the neighbors you live adjacent to and begin to discover more meaningful things about their lives. Remember, neighboring creates opportunities to connect your stories and your neighbors stories to God’s story!
As we launched our new series The Art of Neighboring, we talked about the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), or as I like to call it, “The Story of Two Selfish Jerks.” You likely know the story. A traveler is violently accosted by robbers and left for dead. A priest and a Levite pass by and do nothing. The “Good Samaritan” stops and renders aid at great inconvenience to himself. Jesus’ point in the story is that we’re to go and do the same as the Samaritan. The priest and Levite were looking for loopholes. Perhaps they thought, “If the guy is dead and I touch his body, I’ll become ceremonially unclean and have to go through this arduous ordeal to become clean again.” Whatever they were thinking, it doesn’t really matter because they were looking for loopholes to not love their neighbor.
Let’s be honest, when it comes to neighboring, we’re often looking for loopholes. We look for excuses. Perhaps some of you are thinking, “Have you ever met my neighbor? You should. You’d look for a loophole as well. They play their loud music at all hours. They party. They do drugs. They don’t keep up their yard. Their roof is absolutely caked with moss. Their cars are junkers. They’re mean. They’re not interested in God.” On and on we’ll go as we look for loopholes.
Let me tell you about one of my loopholes. My college degree was in horticulture. Basically, I spent four years to learn how to have a nice lawn. And I like a nice lawn. I fertilize it. I weed it. I mow it. I water it. I need a help group. When we lived in Portland, we had a neighbor who let their dog out, and this particular dog loved to come over to my nice lawn and do her business. Now, nobody likes to pick up somebody else’s dog poop. But that’s not what bothered me. It’s when their dog peed in my yard. I always knew exactly where where their dog peed. After a day or two, I’d discover a big, yellow dead spot in my beautiful, green grass. I didn’t blame the dog because that’s what dogs do (and that’s why I don’t own one). But I did blame my neighbor. They were so “thoughtless” that they wouldn’t police their own dog. So I used it as a loophole. I used it as an excuse to not care about or engage them. After all Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself, except when their dog pees in your yard and leaves a big, yellow dead spot in your beautiful, green grass.” I swear that’s somewhere in the fine print.
What loopholes are you looking for so you don’t have to love your neighbors?
When Jesus was asked to sum up everything into one command, He said to love God with everything we have and to love our neighbors as ourselves. The genius of the Great Commandment is that it’s so simple yet so powerful. However, most of us have turned Jesus’ command to love our neighbors into an abstract idea. We’ve generalized “our neighbor” and don’t do anything to specifically love our neighbors. We’ve turned Jesus’ words into a nice saying, but then we go on with our lives and don’t put it into practice.
What would happen if we took the Great Commandment literally? And what if we started with loving our neighbors in our very own neighborhood? What if the people who live adjacent to us went from strangers to relationships? When we build relationships in our neighborhoods, not only are the lives and the families around us impacted, but those relationships can begin to be the vehicle by which our communities and cities are changed.
This June, we’re going to learn The Art of Neighboring. Our goal is simple: learn how to build genuine relationships right outside your front door. Here’s the line-up for this important series:
June 2 – The Call to Neighboring
June 9 – Overcoming Barriers
June 16 – Entering the Mess
June 23 – Person of Peace
Join us as we discover The Art of Neighboring and watch for information about engaging your neighborhood through a Summer Block Party.