I was at a graduation party the other day for a neighbor. They live three doors down, and so I walked down and hung out with them in their backyard. At one point, some other neighbors came by — a young married couple. They have lived near me for four years, and yet I had only met the woman once — and her husband, never. We talked for a little while before I headed home. I learned later that week that they were moving.
It took me four years to meet him, and the day after he meets me, he takes a job that will move him out of town. Was it something I said?
But really, it reminds me how easy it is to go about my daily, busy, church-y life, and not spend time getting to know the people around me. Where they can almost move in and out without me even meeting them. Is this really how I should be spending my life? Should I really be so busy at church and at life that I miss life with those around me?
When Jesus & Paul & James told us we are to love our neighbor — this surely includes those who live nearest to us. Shouldn’t living out the whole purpose of the law (loving God, loving neighbor) at the very least include those who I can see when I step out onto my porch? And shouldn’t I (me, a “minister”) be concerned if my life is so busy that I am too busy to spend time loving my literal neighbors?
You see, following Jesus is not really all the complicated. It’s not easy, that’s for sure. But it’s not complicated. For it really comes down to this: when my heart is turned toward God, it is then naturally and regularly turned toward my neighbor.
I am sitting on my porch as I finish typing these words. Behind our house are new neighbors I haven’t met yet. New folks are moving in any day now to my left. Across the street are brand new folks, too. And to my right is a family from another country. And as I think about all the new folks that live around me, I want this summer to be a summer of getting to know my neighbors — and learning to love my neighbors.
So, when you step out onto your porch, who do you see? Do you know them? Maybe, like me, it’s time to de-clutter your life so you can more effectively love your neighbors — those who are literally just a few steps away.