Do you know your neighbors? I admit I haven’t made much effort to know mine. Sure, I’ve occasionally introduced myself when I see them in their yards. The problem is I usually forget their names after they share them, and I’m too embarrassed to ask again because I’ve lived in the neighborhood for three years.
Nevertheless, some of the neighbors have sought out my wife and me — especially when they need help with something. We’ve received multiple requests to drive people to different places. I try to see the requests as nice because we had fewer interactions with our neighbors at our previous home, and we have more opportunities to be neighborly now. On the other hand, these requests rarely happen at convenient times, and they are sometimes awkward and potentially dangerous.
As Ballard Church Lead Pastor Allison Coventry said at the recent Pacific Northwest Conference Leadership Summit, “Loving people would be easy if it weren’t for all the people.” (I didn’t attend the summit, but I read the quote on CrossView Church Associate Pastor Jada Swanson’s Facebook wall.)
A neighbor recently rang the doorbell and asked for a favor as I headed out the door to a church committee meeting. Helping the neighbor meant being late for the meeting. Not helping meant I might be like the priest who ignored the man who was attacked and robbed (Luke 10:25–37). Perhaps the priest was late for a committee meeting too. A good Samaritan later helped instead, according to the parable that Jesus shared in response to this question: “And who is my neighbor?”
If I ignore my neighbors or other people, I might be ignoring the King who said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
Even if we’re not directly doing something for Jesus, we can serve the people through whom He works. As Bishop David Kendall said at this year’s Wabash Annual Conference, “For some reason, God always chooses to work through people.”
Sometimes we focus more on people’s minor differences — including outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7) — than we focus on how God may be working through them. For example, some readers expressed concern about a photo this magazine ran of singer Lacey Sturm, one of the performers this summer at FMYC. Sturm wasn’t dressed immodestly, but some readers believed the tattooed Sturm looked too “wild.” Before writing off Sturm, however, check out the testimony she shared with millions of people as part of Billy Graham’s “My Hope” broadcast.
My prayer is that tattooed rockers don’t judge me for my boring appearance and that I don’t judge them for theirs. I need to love people regardless of whether they look like me or agree with me. I’m thankful fear didn’t stop someone I barely know from giving me a ride when I found myself stranded somewhere a few weeks ago. To quote Sturm, “To love is to be vulnerable.”
Jeff Finley has served as the managing editor of Light + Life since 2011. He previously worked as a reporter and editor for Sun-Times Media. He is a volunteer in several ministries at John Wesley Free Methodist Church in Indianapolis.
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