I am not sure what the neighborhood was like that you grew up in, but I have very fond memories of mine! We had potlucks in the cul-de-sac, played neighborhood sports, and even had one of the carpenters in our neighborhood build us a skateboard 1/4 pipe. We were truly a community, and I am grateful that I was fortunate enough to experience that. There were also some Godly men in our neighborhood that everyone looked up to and sought wisdom from. When my dad left us when I was 5, I remember one of these Christian men taking me for ice cream in his classic convertible Camaro. You may not think that sounds like much, but the fact that I can remember this event so vividly in my mind let’s me know it truly left an imprint. Some may say that these days of being a good neighbor are long gone, that everyone is simply too busy to invest this kind of time anymore. We hear a lot of talk now that everyone pulls in their garage and closes the door. We hear about people building bigger back porches and no longer sitting on their front porch. Although these things are true, I can’t…won’t believe that the days of being a good neighbor are over. I think we all just need a little pep talk.
Let me remind you of a very important response that Jesus had once when he was cornered and questioned by the Pharisees. Although they were trying to trap him during this conversation, their question was quite simple. They asked him, what is the most important thing we should be about (paraphrase)?
Matthew 22:37-40 37 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.’38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (emphasis is mine)
Notice the emphasis I put on, “and the second is like it.” In this response Jesus nearly equates loving our neighbor with loving God, because one cannot exist without the other. So, may I ask…how are you doing with loving your neighbor? If a 5 year old little boy in your neighborhood had his dad leave tomorrow, would you know? Have you developed the type of relationships that would cause others to reach out to you? Maybe I should ask it this way – would you have bought me that ice cream cone?
Don’t think I am naive, I know that reaching out to our neighbors is not always easy. But, let me make one suggestion if you have not done this already. Learn the names of the 8 people that live closest to you. It is next to impossible to get to know someone until you know their name.
By the way, the gentleman’s name was Ernie Trosper, you know the guy who bought my ice cream. I will never forget it, and I am not sure I would have ever made it into ministry if it weren’t for guys like Ernie who showed me a small glimpse of what Jesus really looked like.