A common belief about neighbors in the States is that to be a "good neighbor" you need to be one who causes no trouble, doesn't impose, and typically keeps to himself. Most people think they should avoid interrupting others lives as much as possible. This sentiment is far from biblical.
Asking The Wrong Question
This whole conversation tends to revolve around the idea of what we want from our neighbors. Typically, people don't want confrontation. This is what I want most of the time. When my day is wrapping up, I want to kick back on the couch and spend time with my wife, not engage in meaningful conversations with my neighbors. This way of thinking makes me not expect my neighbors to intrude on my life, as well as hinders me from intruding on their lives. It is much easier for me to walk to the mailbox with my head down so that I don't notice my neighbors, rather than making eye contact which could lead to a "hello," which may lead to a conversation. If I'm honest, I don't want that after a long day.
The question seems to be "what do I want from my neighbor?" much more often than "what do I want for my neighbor?." When we remain distant from our neighbors, we potentially sin.
Asking the Right Questions
"Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me." (Romans 15:2-3 ESV).
Remaining distant from your neighbors does them no harm, but it can be a kind of evil because God doesn't command us to ignore our neighbors. God calls us to invest in their lives personally and genuinely care for their well-being. When we begin asking "what do I want for my neighbors?" we begin to see our hearts change and our neighborhood affected by the gospel.
This sounds like something we can all do, right? Here's the catch: when God commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves, to invest in them, and care for them, He is calling us to intrude upon them. God doesn't want us remaining distant, he wants us to have them over for dinner, and he wants us to be invading their space.
This is not just a call to intrude on our neighbors who are easy to love, but this is a call to love even our ‘bad’ neighbors. When we ignore our neighbor's lives, but they see us pack up the family for our church gathering every Sunday morning, what does that portray to them? When we ignore our neighbors, we are robbing them of the ministry God has called us to fulfill on their behalf.
What To Do
As in our MC's, it is smart for each of us to assess our influence and begin thinking about who our "neighbors" are. Once you know who they are, begin praying for them individually. This will serve them, whether they know it or not, and it will also begin to prepare your heart to better serve them. Christians have a unique opportunity in their communities that the world doesn't have. God has blessed us with the opportunity to impact our neighbors in both temporal and eternal ways. This can range from hospitality and generosity to seeking out real needs they have and meeting them, to inviting them to church or sharing the gospel with them. We have been called to bless our neighbors in ways the world simply cannot.
Here's the reality: I can read and believe this, feel guilty for my passivity, and even prepare a course of action, yet still do nothing. If I suppress these convictions for long enough, the guilt will disappear, and I will forget about the issue. The only thing that will move me and evoke change in me is Jesus.
Jesus is the only one who showed me perfectly how to love my neighbor and even took it a step further by saving me. Jesus did not merely talk about this; He sought my good and my redemption. Jesus loves me, the bad neighbor, enough to leave His throne and intrude into my life and rescue me from slavery to sin. Jesus refused to remain distant from me and chose to pursue my heart and seek my good. I am convinced that, because of this, I am called to interrupt the lives of my neighbors with the gospel. Let us be Christians and MC's who are marked by being in the mess of our neighbor's lives, for the sake of their welfare and the gospel.