Asking the Wrong Question
Oh how I remember Mr Rogers. I didn't watch it much, though. But I do remember him asking "Won't you be my neighbor?" It sounded strange then, and it still does.
It sounds fine at first. But the problem is, when everyone starts asking the same question. Everyone is waiting for someone else to make the first move. That may be safer, but it is not very effective for building relationships.
I think a better question to ask is "Can I be your neighbor?" I think this one is more fitting with who we are as Christians and how we are to live.
Asking if I can be your neighbor takes the pressure off others to act. I assume the responsibility to be neighborly.
We see what happens when we wait for others to invite us in. Not much. Many of us don't know our neighbors really at all. As we look at Jesus's life, we see he invited others into relationship with him. He offered himself. That's what being a neighbor is all about. It's also the sort of behavior that often led some of his greatest teachings.
This one for instance started out as an attempt to trap Jesus in his words. But he flipped the script as he always did when the pharisee asked:
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36–40 (ESV))
What do we do with this today?
A book that has provided me with more than enough to consider is "The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right outside Your Door"; so much so that we will be using it as the basis for our upcoming series which I have adapted it's title to: THE ART OF BEING A NEIGHBOR
From the book jacket:
What if Jesus meant that we should love our actual neighbors? When Jesus was asked to sum up everything into one command, he said to love God with everything we have and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Most of us have turned this simple idea of loving our neighbors into a nice saying, putting it on bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets and then going on with our lives without actually putting it into practice.What would happen if every follower of Jesus took the Great Commandment literally? Is it possible that the solution to our society’s biggest issues has been right under our noses for the past two thousand years?
As United Methodists, we are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, two very big tasks. Both begin by being a neighbor.