“Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up." Romans 15:2
Have you ever had a neighbor who you really didn't get along with? There are few things in life worse than that, to be honest, because there is one particular trait about a neighbor that you can't do anything about. They're always there! And you know, when you move into a new place, usually you have no idea who your new neighbors even are. I was just thinking about our neighbors yesterday as Andy was out chatting it up with the guys. I was thinking about how God really put us in the ideal neighborhood. Almost. The only thing missing, really, is a few nice kids right next door. But other than that, our neighbors are perfect for us. Andy is such a social person, that he loves to spend time chatting it up with all the neighbors, and they all are the exact same way. And yet, I am not a chatty person, I prefer quiet and enjoying time outside either by myself or just with my kids- and my neighbors respect that completely. I love that.
But we have not always had great neighbors. Those not so great neighbors were often a great source of anger and frustration to me. I recall one neighbor in particular (who I believe I blogged about here at the time) who would just gall me to no end. I was one of the happiest people alive when they finally moved out. It wasn't until later on, when I thought about the months that we'd endured these horrible neighbors that I realized what a big fat failure I was in being Jesus to them. I wasn't even nice to them- I would see them outside and immediately herd the kids into the house, or we would purposely leave- go to the park or something so we wouldn't have to play with the kids. I was so focused on how THEY affected ME, that I never stopped to think about how I affected THEM. I failed with those neighbors- and yet it was a learning moment for me, because I could clearly see afterwards how I could have done better.
This verse in Romans really says it all.
“Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up."
When we are kind and good and go beyond for our neighbors, we may be the only light these people are witness to from day to day. Oh, they may know that we're "the Christians" of the neighborhood- but do we show it? And by showing it, I don't mean by preaching to them every chance we get. I mean simply being an example. Sometimes that example is simply hopping in the car to go to church. When a neighbor sees us going to church three times a week, and they don't go at all, that can be convicting for them. I know Andy has had more than one conversation with someone along the lines of "you know, we really should start thinking about going to church" and all Andy can do is smile at them and offer little tidbits of encouragement.
There are other ways to be a good example though. Simply smiling and saying hi in this day and age can be huge- but what about the other things? Offering to mow a neighbors lawn while they're on vacation. Seeing a neighbor struggling with a piece of heavy furniture and simply offering to help them with it. Sharing tools, plants and cups of sugar can also be telling- people just don't do that much anymore. And those little things can amount to so much more when the time comes for the big things. We are not neighborly for ourselves- it's not about us- we are neighborly so that should the time come where our neighbors are feeling the need for Jesus, we will be there, ready and waiting to help them find that way. We build them up so that they know they have someone to turn to in a time of need. We are not neighborly for ourselves- we are neighborly because Jesus wants us to be neighborly, and through our willingness to display neighborliness, maybe God will do a great work that will make an eternal difference to our neighbors.