In the classic television series, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”, part of the theme song went like this:
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?
Won’t you please,
Won’t you please?
Please won’t you be my neighbor?
It occurred to me that Mr. Rogers wasn’t just willing to treat others as a neighbor; he actively wanted others to be his neighbor. He offered a friendly world of learning and imagination, as well as a sense of community, to any kid watching his show.
While this makes for a nice kids’ show theme, Mr. Rogers wasn’t the only one who talked about neighbors. In the tenth chapter of Luke, a lawyer asked Jesus about who our neighbors are:
But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Luke 10:29 NASB
Jesus answers this question through the illustration we sometimes call the story of the “Good Samaritan”, in Luke 10:30-35. The conclusion of this message defines – via a question back to the lawyer – what it means to be a neighbor, fulfilling the command of Leviticus 19:18:
Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands? ” And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”
Luke 10:36-37 NASB
We may agree that loving our neighbor is the right thing to do. (This can even be true whether or not someone follows Jesus, although the motivation differs.) But, do we actively keep an eye out for our “neighbors” – those to whom we should show love, even if they don’t live next door to us? I’m not suggesting that we look for problems that don’t exist, but do we really want to be a good neighbor? Do we see someone walking down the street, hallway, or grocery store aisle; and really hope that they don’t need anything from us today? Do we see the caller ID on our phone and hope that the person on the other end isn’t going to pull us into something? Do we look down at our phones just to avoid making eye contact with someone who clearly needs a friend right now?
I hope not, but I think that there are times when the temptation is stronger than others – enticing us to hope that the “road to Jericho” doesn’t have any injured people for us to tend to that day. When we’re tired, or at the end of our own strength, we may want to not look in a certain direction, lest we find something meriting our attention.
Instead, though, let us call upon the source of ultimate strength (meaning God, who supplies our every need; see 1 Peter 4:11), and actively keep an eye out for people to whom we should be neighbors. May we actually desire – and ask God for – the chance to be a neighbor to others. May no one be considered unworthy of our love, just as we were loved unconditionally.
My challenge to you (and, of course, back to me) is to watch for those whom God has placed in our path, where He expects us to be neighbors. When you are called by Him, He will provide what you – and me – need, in order to step up and do the right thing.
And, if you encounter a situation like that this week, share it with others. This doesn’t have to be prideful, but others can be encouraged by God’s work in your lives.