What does it mean to love our neighbors during a global pandemic? Especially since, in many places, we’re still supposed to be social distancing from each other. Are we exempt from this command because of what’s going on around us? Or is it even more important that we lean in and learn how to neighbor well and appropriately during such a time as this?
When I think about neighboring, The Message paraphrase of John 1:14 immediately comes to mind: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish.”
The Word moved into the neighborhood. Jesus moved into the neighborhood. Jesus, who is God himself, took on flesh and blood, became God in human form, and then moved into the neighborhood. However, he didn’t just move into the neighborhood. Jesus came to dwell among us. He didn’t just say, “Here’s the truth, now go figure it out,” to those in the Ancient Near Eastern first century society that he was born into. He didn’t just pontificate in an ivory tower or a dusty old classroom. No, he moved into their neighborhood, walked with them, and dwelt with them.
During a time when the Church is scattered, and we are confined to our homes and neighborhoods, it’s important to remember that God’s presence doesn’t dwell in a physical church building. No, the presence of Jesus dwells in you through the Holy Spirit! This means that the Word became flesh and blood, and moved not only into a neighborhood but into your neighborhood.
During a time when the Church is scattered, and we are confined to our homes and neighborhoods, it’s important to remember that God’s presence doesn’t dwell in a physical church building.
Do you see the significance of this? Just as Jesus became man and dwelt among those in the first century Ancient Near Eastern society—moving into their neighborhood—today, through the Holy Spirit, God himself is dwelling in each and every neighborhood through you!
When you take an intentional posture and attitude in your neighborhood and decide to dwell and move into your neighborhood filled with the Holy Spirit and the love of God, here’s what could happen:
- Your neighbors could receive blessings through you that will leave them speechless.
- Your neighbors could discover what it means to truly live.
- Your neighbors could experience emotional, spiritual, and physical healing.
- Your neighbors could taste what actually satisfies.
- Your neighbors could experience healing from their doubts.
- Your neighbors could begin to see for the first time.
- Your neighbors could enter into eternity, starting in the here and now.
This is what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.
So how can we do this well? How can we move into our neighborhoods as Jesus did? To dwell where we are? Here are three practical steps to neighbor well:
1. Schedule Margin
As you go about your day, instead of going straight from Point A to Point B without any margin, schedule time for the in-between. As a rule of thumb, just think about margin as an extra 10-15 minutes. In other words, try giving yourself an extra 10-15 minutes to walk to your mailbox so that you have the margin to talk to your neighbors along the way. And when shoveling snow or mowing your lawn—depending on where you live—give yourself an extra 10-15 minutes so that you can interact with your neighbors.
Jesus was a master at this. In Luke 8:40-56, we read about the time he was going to heal this 12-year-old girl who was dying, but as he was on his way, he stopped to help a woman who had been suffering for 12 years. He was able to do this because he had the margin for it.
What would it look like to schedule an extra 10-15 minutes of margin so that you can be the presence of Jesus in your neighborhood? And be able to respond whenever and however he calls you to?
2. Listen with Two Ears
Listening with two ears means that you are listening with one ear to the neighbor you’re interacting with and with the other ear to the Holy Spirit. As you schedule margin to interact with your neighbors and engage in conversation with them—respecting social distancing rules—prayerfully ask God for his wisdom and his words.
Ask him to speak to you and through you. Look for phrases that stick out or expressions that seem off or different when you’re conversing with your neighbors. And be a blessing to them through the gift of being fully present. Jesus promises that in those moments, “the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what must be said” (Luke 12:12).
3. Practice Hospitality
If there was ever a moment in history where hospitality looked different, it’s now. In fact, did you know that despite social distancing rules, you can still have a house party? A virtual one?
Instead of driving to one another’s houses, you can get the app called “Houseparty” and play trivia games, drawing games, heads up, and more with one another via video. You can also connect via Zoom or FaceTime as well.
And 10-15 minutes before going to the grocery store, you can text one of your neighbors to ask them what they need. If they say “nothing,” you could buy them something sweet as a little treat.
Friends, global pandemic or not, I hope this article challenged you to rethink what it means to love your neighbor as yourself as Jesus says in Mark 12:30-31.