As I’ve spent time thinking about how we as Christians can be like the Good Samaritan, who became a true neighbor to someone who was his enemy, I’ve often related it to the obvious picture of hurting refugees who have been resettled in our neighborhoods. But I think I’ve drawn the parallel too closely. I’ve been faced with this question:
How can we think of being a good neighbor to refugees when we don’t know our current neighbors’ names and needs?
Perhaps we should be starting right there. As I mentioned in my earlier essay (A Note to Christians About the Syrian Refugees), I appreciated but disagreed with Kevin DeYoung’s assessment that we ought to worry about the safety of our already-here neighbors more than we show concern for those who live afar. However, many of us haven’t even begun with that starting point.
For a time, while David and I were living in an apartment complex in Houston, I found myself in a very new situation: I didn’t even meet any of the neighbors in the next-door apartments. Although I met some of the other neighbors, our next-door neighbors had very different schedules from mine and I never ran into them.
But is that an excuse? I should have at least stuck a post-it note on the door across the hallway, inviting the people there for dinner.
A few months ago, I listened to a series of conversations between Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and Rosaria Butterfield (author of Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert). Mrs. Butterfield is a formerly practicing lesbian and atheist who has been transformed by the gospel and who emphasizes the power and importance of hospitality. During the fifth podcast, she presents a challenging set of questions about our relationship with our neighbors.
“Do they [your neighbors] know that you pray for them? Do they know that you’re a member of a church and that that really means something? Do they know that your relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God is vital and life-giving and daily and fluent and present, and it just folds into all of the things that you care about…Do they know that you have immediate access to the God Who made you?”
She also says, “God never gets the address wrong. He gave you your neighbors to practice neighboring. Our job is to be good neighbors.” I love that quote, and yet it challenges me and convicts me. I want to learn to be a good neighbor now, right where I am, to the people God has placed around me.