A rudimentary scan of scripture will soon tell us that God is interested in our neighbour. He is also vitally interested in our neighbourliness! His interests ought to be ours as well.
The latter portion of Jesus’ summary of the “Law” calls for love of neighbour. Seeking clarification, or more likely limitation, the young man asks, “Who is my neighbour?” Like so many wrongly motivated questions, Jesus does not directly answer. Instead, he goes on to give an expansive view of what it is to be a ‘neighbour’. He answers in this way because any objective reading of scripture will reveal who God considers to be our neighbour. The list is both succinct and sprawling. It is all those we meet, those created, like us, in His image. The scriptures also highlight a subset for special neighbourly attention. Time and time again we read reminders of our neighbourly responsibility to: widows, the poor, and orphans. Jesus is less concerned with again enumerating this list. Malachi reminds us that we know what God requires! Jesus seems more intent on our obedience than on a vain repetition of that which has already been made clear.
I suggest that the great challenge for Christians and the Christian Church is the challenge of neighbourliness. We cannot claim to be fulfilling the first part of the summary, that is “Love the LORD your God” if we falter at the latter portion. “Not everyone who says “Lord, Lord, shall enter the Kingdom of God, but the one that does the will of my Father.”
‘Church Growth’ has become an industry in the West. Many churches are shrinking and turn to extra biblical experts for advice. I would propose that a better use of time, treasure and talent would be to seek ways to increase in neighbourliness. If members individually and corporately concentrated on this the influence of the Gospel would grow and so would the Kingdom.
Perhaps we need to examine our priorities. Such examination might well lead to repentance. Neighbourliness is not beyond us. We have it in us. We only need to work it out. To do this effectively we will need to partner with God the Holy Spirit, asking help to see and serve our neighbour, knowing that as we serve the least of these we serve Him.
One of my personal frustrations, this past year, has been that I rarely interact with my neighbours. We isolate to protect our neighbour that we seldom see. I find I need to rely on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to show me how I might love my neighbour who I do not see. In prayer, recently, I was reminded that I love God though I have not seen him. This illustrates that physical sight is unnecessary for love. I can find creative and prayerful ways to bless my neighbour.