Christians Can't Be Too Busy to Love Their Neighbors
Even as "living in community" and "intentionality" become buzzwords among Christians, our lives seem to be getting busier than ever and our packed schedules—and misplaced priorities—can keep us from taking the time to get to know one another.
Many of us build barriers that prevent us from reaching out to the people that we encounter on a daily basis, those that live right next to us, and even the parents of those kids that play with our kids. Barely half of us know our neighbors' names.
It's not that we simply don't care; in fact, we are quick to respond to someone in need, we bring food, offer money or a ride to work, and even pet sit. But that's only as long as it is just temporary assistance, something we can do once, or only when it is really needed. We like to feel that have contributed and have somehow acted "Christianly" enough.
It can be uncomfortable to suggest that that's not enough, that we are called to much closer community and much greater sacrifice than we're allowing for right now. A couple of books I've recently read (and asked my students at Oklahoma Baptist Unversity to read) propose these questions: Do we have a responsibility, as believers, to build more genuine relationships with our neighbors? And is part of the Christian life being intentional about getting to know and care for our immigrant brothers and sisters in particular?
In The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside our Door and Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion, & Truth in the Immigration Debate, the authors propose that living in isolation from our immediate neighbors and keeping a distance from the immigrant community often lead to fear and misunderstanding, and most importantly, a missed opportunity to care and love for others just as God has loved us.
In The Art of Neighboring, pastor Jay Pathak and nonprofit director Dave Runyon tell us that neighboring is about "empowering people and breaking down walls. It's about doing something together for the common good." In essence, each of us can better our communities and advance the Kingdom by being engaged and involved in the lives of others via service, friendship, and daily interactions with one another.
While Welcoming the Stranger focuses on our relationships with and understanding of immigrants, both books point to fear as the main obstacle hindering our developing real relationships. In the book, the authors—World Relief's Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang Yang—give examples of how listening to the stories of others helps clarify, connect, and erase misunderstandings we might have about them.
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