BIG IDEA: There are many obstacles and barriers which keep us from neighboring well. Fear and lack of time are constant challenges to our modern way of life. What would it look like to overcome these barriers and live a life in our neighborhoods which was filled with hope and margin to afford opportunities to love our neighbors well?
SERIES: The Art of Neighboring: What would it look like to love our actual neighbors?
1 Peter 3:14-17
4 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
1 And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. 22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24 And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. 41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
- Fear of our neighbors: Because we are overexposed to the news and to the terrible things that have always been going on in our world, we have developed a fear of our neighbors.
- “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you you’re future”: To a degree, this is a true statement, especially as children are growing up. But when we mature into adults, this must be taken with a grain of salt. But this is still in the back of our minds, making us overly cautious of entering into relationship with our neighbors.
- Barrier of Fear:
- Top neighboring fears:
- Fear of burnout: I have too many relationships already.
- Fear of annoyance: I don’t think my neighbors want me to engage with them.
- Fear of witness: what if I do more harm than good as a representative of Jesus?
- Fear of awkwardness: what if they bring up politics?
- Fear of negative influence: what if they teach my kids something terrible?
- Fear of rejection: What if they don’t like me?
- Fear of clinginess: What if they do like me and want to hang out all the time?
- Fear of persecution: What if they find out I’m a Christian and want to literally persecute me?
- Scriptural context: This verse is often used as a charge to share the Gospel, and that’s part of it, but in the context, Peter is talking about persecution and a fear of persecution. The people were afraid of persecution, and so Peter was telling them to be ready to give an answer to those who were afraid: “Why aren’t you afraid?” Because my hope is in Jesus.
- Hope-motivated neighboring: If we’re not afraid, not afraid to neighbor, people will notice, and people will ask us about it. And the answer is, we do have hope because Christ compels us.
- Barrier of Time: We are all busy people, and we feel like we just don’t have time to be a good neighbor. We need to overcome that perception of our time.
- Ask: Are we living at a pace that allows us to neighbor well, to be available to those around us?
- Myths of Busy-ness:
- Things will settle down: As soon as I get xyz done, then life will settle down.
- More will be enough: I’ll be content right after this.
- Everyone lives like this: Everyone is busy! It’s normal!
- Stop making excuses, and start living at a pace that allows us to live for Christ in all aspects of our lives.
- Great relationships form in the margins: neighboring cannot be scheduled. It just happens in the margins of life. Jesus lived this way. He lived an interruptible life.
- Mark 5:24-42 – Jesus, on his way to heal a dying girl, took time to stop and talk to a woman who touched his garment. He may have even waited and listened to her whole story. He doesn’t brush her off. He stops to hear and heal her.
- It’s as if Jesus is saying, “If you have your hand in my hand, death itself is nothing but sleep.”
- Start thinking of time as Jesus does:
- Jesus’ view of time is different than ours. Time doesn’t own him. Through the power of God, nothing can stop him, not even time.
- He allows himself to be available, to intervene, to neighbor well regardless of time.
- What does that look like for us? We’re not likely to raise the dead, so how does this apply?
- Keep the main thing, the main thing: The main thing is that Jesus is We have the power of Jesus within us, so what is there to fear? If we remember to stay connected to Jesus, then we will have the ability to live within the margins of time and stop fearing the loss of time.
- Love God first: don’t forget the first part of the commandment, which is to love God and then to love your neighbor.
- Prioritize: We have a priority to God, to our immediate family, to our closest friends (aka discipling relationships), to rest/sleep. Those are also main things.
- Manage the time stealers: we need to manage the great things, the good things in life, that can begin to steal our time like Netflix, endless internet research, social media, vacations, etc. The way to manage these things is to crush them so that they go back into their place. These are good things that need to be kept in check.
- Be interruptible: If you’re going to neighbor well, you need to try to be interruptible. “Love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible.” – John Ortberg. Being a good neighbor might mean being late to things that aren’t major responsibilities. Jesus was busy, but never rushed. He was always willing to be interrupted.
- Top neighboring fears:
- Next steps: We must overcome these barriers, but how?
- Throw a party for your neighbors!
- What are your greatest fears when it comes to neighboring?
- Where might you find the time to be more available for new relationships and conversations with neighbors?
- What would it look like for you to live an “interruptible” life?