My family recently moved to a new neighborhood near our church. From the outside, this neighborhood is seen as one of the better neighborhoods in our county. It is perceived as being full of neighbors who are close and intimate with one another – a community that has been relatively untouched by the slow erosion of neighborhoods happening all around us. I moved into this neighborhood with great anticipation, eager to be greeted by our new neighbors upon our arrival. After all, it’s really easy to “love your neighbor” when they love you first, right? I secretly hoped this new neighborhood would make my task of following Jesus convenient and comfortable.
Weeks and months went by without much interaction from any of our neighbors – until I finally met a nice woman who lives a few doors down from me. She and her husband have been living in the same house in this neighborhood for almost 40 years! She began to tell me about all of the other neighbors and how long they have lived here (some for 20, 30, or 40 years as well). I asked her how often they get together as neighbors for meals or other events. Sadly, she told me that while they used to get together often, they have not done so in a very long time. When I asked her why, she couldn’t point to any reason. They just don’t.
Even the strongest of our neighborhoods and small communities have not been untouched by the many fractures eroding the foundations of our neighborly relationships. How can Christians respond to the failing health of communities and the polarization of tribalism in our culture when we hardly know other church members, let alone our next-door neighbors?