Truly Living in Your Community

Drew Causey, Pastor of Worship and Discipleship at Hope Community Church, sent in this article about truly living in the community and not just where you house is located:

When I was in college, I had a neighbor who made a somewhat regular habit of accidentally backing into my car. After the second occurrence, I tried parking in a different place, but somehow her purple Pontiac’s bumper found its way back to the side panel of my Mazda 323. After the third time, I began to wonder if my roommates and I were being bad neighbors to her and this was her passive-aggressive way of letting one of us know. I still remember going next door to knock on her door and talk to her about my fresh dents: in every case, she was completely oblivious that she had hit my car, and she went above and beyond to make it right. I was grateful for that.

I lived in that apartment for four years. In that four years, the only conversations I had with that particular neighbor were about the dents in my car. I don’t think we were ever bad neighbors to one another. We never intentionally caused problems for one another or bothered each other. When there was a problem, like the denting of my car, we were graceful and patient as we worked through the issue. But were we ever really neighbors? Or did we simply live next door to one another?

I began thinking about this after having breakfast with a few neighbors this week. One of them, Brandon, said something that really stuck in my mind: he asked, “Do you think people live in their neighborhoods here, or are neighborhoods just places where people sleep?” The question highlights the distinct differences people have in how they define “home”, what it means to “live”, and what it means to be a “neighbor.” As I look at my own definitions of these words, I am discovering that it is quite possible to live in your house and not live in the community where your house is located. To be present and yet still be quite absent in your own neighborhood. To live next door to people and yet never really be their neighbor.

What does it mean to be a neighbor to the people around you? Over the last few posts I’ve written here, I keep coming back to the parable Jesus told about the Good Samaritan. In it, a man, beaten and left for dead on the side of the road, is passed over by people who would culturally be considered his neighbors, but is taken care of by a Samaritan, who dresses his wounds, brings him to shelter and pays for his future care. Jesus’ parable aims to teach the listeners that true neighbors are those who are merciful to those in need around them. It’s not proximity or even cultural connectedness that define neighborliness; instead, it is the way we relate to those we encounter that make us neighbors.

I wonder how our concept of what it means to be a neighbor would change if we walked a mile in the shoes of the beaten man in this parable. Often, we don’t discover what it means to be a good neighbor to others until we are in need of one ourselves. Most of us have had times in life where we have needed someone to come alongside us and help us up, to help us recover from life’s bumps and bruises. Who picked you up when you needed it? Chances are, these people saw you as more than your problem. More than a costly endeavor. You were valuable enough to them, for whatever reason, that the time and resources invested to help you became worth sacrificing to them.

I believe that part of the reason I live in Lawrenceburg is to be a good neighbor to the people of Lawrenceburg. To live in such a way that, in simply meeting people where they are and doing what I can, they know they are valuable to someone. Because they are.  But I also know that part of the reason I live in Lawrenceburg is because I need neighbors. I need people to help me up when I find myself beaten and in the ditch. We are never just the Good Samaritan; we are always the man beaten and left for dead as well. We need neighbors, and we need to be neighbors to each other in small ways and big every day. Because we are all valuable to Someone; being neighborly just reminds us that it’s true.

 

-Drew Causey is a husband, a father, and the Pastor of Worship and Discipleship at Hope Community Church. He married a Lawrenceburg girl (Catherine Detherage) in 2010, and together they now have three very energetic boys.

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