by Carol Round – “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments”— Matthew 22:34-40 (NIV).
Walking my dog through the neighborhood where I’ve lived for almost three years, I often stop to visit with those I’ve friended. Other times when a neighbor I’ve not met happens to be outside, I wave as I pass by. Other times, I find a reason to strike up a conversation with those I’ve not yet met.
Recently, on one of my walks, I started a conversation with a neighbor who was adding a pergola to the back of his house. Since I’ve been considering doing the same, I asked about the individual constructing his. I also wanted to know if he was satisfied with their work.
Eventually, and I can’t recall how, our conversation led to sharing our faith. While we don’t attend the same church, I believe our faith opened the door for future conversations.
Conversations with Neighbors
The neighborhood I live in is a blend of young and old, families with small children, and singles, like me. I’m blessed to live in this community of neighbors, even though I don’t personally know each one.
At least three of the families who live on my street have become close friends. My next-door neighbors—a couple the same age as I am—share my faith in God. The wife, Susie, and I often walk together and stop to visit with neighbors. If we don’t know them by name, we introduce ourselves.
Our conversations can include discussions about the weather, our lawns, our pets, or other ordinary topics. We seldom get into deep discussions, unless we find common ground, like our faith.
Finding Common Ground
Sometimes it’s difficult to meet and get to know a neighbor. Some work odd hours or work from home, sitting at their computer all day. Others ignore overtures of friendliness. Some are seldom seen outside, preferring instead to remain inside behind closed curtains and doors.
I might see a neighbor in passing, leaving for work, putting the trash out to be picked up on Fridays, or mowing the lawn. But so far, it’s been challenging to connect with those who, for some reason, prefer their anonymity.
I grew up in the 50s and 60s. It was a time when neighbors interacted daily. Children played games together outside. Stay-at-home moms met at each other’s homes to share coffee and recipes. Even the fathers in the neighborhood bonded over their likes—a new car, lawn care equipment or the latest world news.
Times Have Changed
Times have changed. The world is in constant flux. People aren’t as friendly. Some are fearful and distrustful. They don’t always look out for their neighbors. And I must confess there are some neighbors who are hard to love.
Some of us take pride in taking care of our property. Others don’t, making it frustrating for the rest of us. But Jesus has commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is the second greatest commandment after loving “the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
I must remind myself I am not perfect. So, with that reminder, I often ask Jesus to help me see my unlovable neighbors through His eyes. Each time I do, I come one step closer to loving them.