The Art of Neighboring

July 16, 2018 Lindsey Gatlin Blog

A few years back, one of my good friends wrote a book about loving our neighbors. I know, not an original idea, right? But it really is a very good book. Here is his basic idea…

Jesus tells a story in Luke 10:25-37 that we know as “The Good Samaritan.” The point of Jesus’ story is to highlight that our neighbor is most often the person right in front of us with a need we can meet. Jesus told this story to a religious leader who wanted to justify himself, who wanted to choose for himself who he might classify as a neighbor, thus making the command “love your neighbor as yourself” a bit easier to swallow.

In our culture we like to think of everyone as our neighbor. We love to focus, and rightly so, on how our purchasing power affects our neighbors who live in other countries and work to produce the items we wear or eat. And this is good! We do live in a global community. We are much more interconnected than most of us realize on a daily basis.

But we also live right next door to other people of whom we are not often aware or concerned. Here’s a quote from “The Art of Neighboring”

Art of Neighboring Book CoverIf we say, ‘Everyone is my neighbor,’ it can become an excuse for avoiding the implications of following the Great Commandment. Our ‘neighbors’ become defined in the broadest of terms. They’re the people across town, the people who are helped by the organizations that receive our donations, the people whom the government helps. We don’t have to feel guilty, we tell ourselves. After all, we can’t be expected to really love everybody, can we? The problem is, however, that when we aim for everything, we hit nothing. So when we insist we’re neighbors with everybody, often we end up being neighbors with nobody.

As we’re studying through the book of Acts this year, and learning to participate in what Jesus is doing, I’d like to encourage us this summer, to continually make time and space to connect to our closest neighbors, the ones who live right next door or just down the street. These are the people we have the most opportunity to connect with just because they live physically closer than
everyone else.

One of the things I love about this is its practicality. It’s so easy to make the teaching of Jesus grandiose and just too far removed from our real daily lives. But our neighbors are just there, right next door to us every single day of the week. The process of beginning to actually obey Jesus with the people who live the closest, well that’s where the rubber meets the road in this whole following Jesus thing.

So here are three things you can try to do as we work to love our neighbors together:

  1. Get to know their names. Here’s another thought from the book: “So let’s start by learning our neighbors’ names. If you’ve lived next to your neighbors for a long time and still don’t know their names, it can be awkward. But you have to start somewhere. They probably don’t know your name either. Someone has to break the ice. Why not you?” Yeah, why not me? And if that’s too easy for you, then get to know what concerns them in this current season. That’ll help you do the next thing!
  2. Begin to pray for them, by name. Learn about some of the concerns or struggles they’re facing, and begin to pray for them. As you do ask God to give you an idea about how to practically serve them. This is what relationship is all about, right
  3. Try having a “transformation conversation” with them. This is where you’ll begin to practice a little vulnerability. Begin to share a bit of your personal story about how Jesus is bringing some transformation to your own life. You could structure it like this: talk about an area struggle you’re facing, about how God is meeting you in the midst of that struggle, and where you hope to get to as you continue to put your hope in God in this area of life. Notice; I didn’t direct you to tell them how everything is perfect now—mostly because that’s seldom the real story. We do have hope in how God is continuing to heal us, and that’s the hope I love to share.

So there you have it. Once again, what would it look like around the Twin Ports if everyone who called Duluth Vineyard their home was to recommit to obeying Jesus and loving their neighbors the way they love themselves? I think it could have a wonderful effect on our neighborhoods!

Very warmly in Christ,

Michael Gatlin,
Co-Senior Pastor

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