Lindsey has her neighborhood mapped out with names, phone numbers, and birthdays of her neighbors. She coordinates daily walks for all who can participate, and checks in on those who are not able. She feeds one neighbor’s birds and another’s dog when they are traveling, and remembers each and every family with a home-baked goodie for birthdays and at Christmas. Lindsey is a good neighbor.
So is Christy, who daily prays that God would allow her opportunity to serve a co-worker, to love them as He would. God always seems to answer her prayers as she has become the “go-to” person when there is a personal need to be met, as her co-workers have learned from experience that she loves them in word and deed.
Bob is a good neighbor to the people he intentionally communicates with at the coffee shop, and the person sitting next to him on the plane. He takes a sincere interest in others who cross his path, and sees each opportunity as an appointment made by God. What might have been a one-time encounter for some, Bob turns into lasting friendships, meeting needs as they arise, and offering counsel as it is sought.
Terry doesn’t realize she is a good neighbor. She regularly takes time off from work to take a neighbor to chemotherapy. “I don’t do anything really,” says Terry, “I’m just there with her in case she needs a hand to hold.” What may be nothing to Terry is encouragement and comfort for her neighbor in need.
Are you a good neighbor? Perhaps you have been unsure of the definition of neighbor. You are not alone. Dr. Del Tackett shares that a neighbor is the person to your right, your left, across from you, and behind you – your literal neighborhood. Do you even know your neighbor? I realized I was guilty of driving home, opening my garage door just long enough to drive in, and exiting only to make another trip in my car. I’ve become more intentional about meeting my neighbors, getting to know them, and pray to have opportunity o serve them.
Elbert Hubbard says “Your neighbor is the man who needs you.” That can be a convicting statement for those of us who are so wrapped up in our own story, our own needs, to ever consider that others have needs that God intended us to meet. What would happen if I prayed for God to show me these people? What would be the result if I kept my eyes open to see the pain that God sees, and were obedient to the Holy Spirit’s leading to offer help? If every Christ follower were intentional in the coming week to look for needs to be met, and to step in with love and practical helps, what a difference we would make in our neighborhoods, our communities, and across the nation!
Jesus told us in Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Marc Fey, co-author of The 210 Project says, “The first half of this passage is a design verse – which tells us how things were designed by God to be. Here, our design is to be light.” Because Christ lives in believers, we are capable of reflecting His light, as He is light. In practical terms, it’s like handing someone in the dark a flashlight so they can find their way to the source of abundant light. You and I are the lights God sends into the darkness of this world, so that others are drawn to God’s light revealed through our love and good works towards them.
“The second half of the passage”, Marc says, “is instructive, or imperative. God explains to us what to do. We are to take actions that make the light of God accessible to others, giving them a chance to see. Give them an up-close view of what being loved by God looks like. Help them see what being taken care of by your Heavenly Father feels like. Be a part of God’s story. When you do, the Father is glorified!”
The Christmas season is a perfect time to begin shining your light with good works towards your neighbor – the person next door, the person who is near, the person in need. It requires looking beyond your own felt needs, to truly love your neighbor as yourself, but in the end, you will discover that it really is more blessed to give than to receive!
Carmen Pate is a Principal with Alliance Ministries.