One of my favorite games to play with young people is called “Who’s Your Neighbor?” In fact, I often got the eye roll when playing it with middle school or high school kids because I played it so much. But I played it anyways because the eye roll was quickly stopped in its tracks with lots of laughter. And best of all, names were learned. You don’t know the game? Everyone stands in a circle with someone in the middle who points at anyone randomly and says, “who’s your neighbor?” That person has to say the two names of the people next to them before the leader counts to ten. That’s it! Ok, I add ridiculous things to the game for more laughter, but you get the gist.
But I’m not here today to talk about name games, although I do want to ask you “who’s your neighbor?” I know, I’m not the first to write about how American culture has changed so much that we don’t know our neighbors anymore like we did back in the good ol’ days. So I won’t bore you with statistics about the breakdown of American neighborhoods. But I do want us, as the contemporary church, to ask this very important question. Heck, Jesus even dealt with it so it must be important (cue Good Samaritan story).
Aside from all the typical excuses cited in many research articles about the percentage of people who know their neighbors, I wondered why I don’t know my neighbors very well? Ok, I’ve met many of them, but I’ve not taken the time to get to know them. Like in the game, the person in the middle has to instigate the “who’s your neighbor?” game. I must admit that I have fallen short of instigating deeper relationship with my neighbors. And I don’t believe that people just want to “keep to themselves.” I was on a walk the other day and instead of just waving at my neighbor, I stopped and had a conversation. I found out that he’s a pretty interesting guy. I mean really, people are interesting. I just need to show some interest.
So why am I on this rant today? Because being a Christ follower is about connecting. It’s about relationship with our neighbor whether they are next door or on the other side of the world. Because I want to be a part of a community, not just a home dweller. And I believe being a Christ follower is about getting to know others without any agenda. I don’t need to be concerned about whether they believe what I believe, I just need to get to know them for the simple reason that they are people who need connection like I do. I’m not going to leave a flyer on their door, I’m just going to say hi and ask them how they are doing.
Who knows what God can do with a simple conversation and a little effort on my part to engage relationally in the world around me. I need to BE the church.
So…who’s your neighbor?
Oh, and for those of you who like the research I included a nifty graph. Enjoy being a neighbor!