Monday, October 19, 2015

Jesus' Way of Neighboring (Day 19)


(Today's post is from my friend, Lori Harris. Lori inspires and encourages me to live like Jesus planted me exactly where He wanted me. In a specific neighborhood, at a specific time, for a specific purpose.)

I sit to write this post, four kids from the neighborhood shoot hoops in the driveway, two small girls have a picnic on the sidewalk, and four kids roast marshmallows in the backyard. Three girls have just left styrofoam cups of water on my desk, the picnic table in the front yard while they hurry off to the corner market for more Takis. They lick the hot seasoning from the chips before munching down the acutal chip and when there's a crowd, the Takis go fast.

I'm working towards a deadline, but the kids are oblivious to my fingers furiously pecking keys.

Can I get some water?  

Yougot any more marshmallows?

Thebasketball needs some more air. You think you can ask Mr. Thad to pump it up for us?  

Can we pick up all the sticks in the yard and burn them on the fire? {YES!}

My inner nature is screaming for three hours of quiet with no little people writing their own version ofIf You Give A Mouse A Cookie into my very life. This kind of loud, in your face neighboring presses into my self-centered heart and messes with my self-righteousness. 

I like neighboring when neighboring is neatly scheduled into my life. I like the kind of neighboring that costs me nothing more than a wave and a smile. I like neighboring when it happens with people just like me, on days that I have penciled in on my calendar with distinct beginning and ending times. Basically, I like neighboring on my terms- when I've thought out the plan and executed it in ways that showcase my strengths, like hosting a dinner party.

But that kind of neighboring is not what Jesus had in mind when He commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

When Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors, He was asking us to re-imagine our families ties. He was asking us to widen our circle to include those closest to us, literally.

We love to take the Great Commandment and make the word neighbor to mean every human on planet earth because if we can generlize who our neighbors are, we don't have to actually love our literal neighbors.

But I think this is exactly what

Jesus expects of us. Jesus is inviting us to put down roots, right where we live and love those closest to us- even if they are nothing like us. And He is inviting us to love them on their terms, on their turf, and in their timing.

When we first moved onto Avent street, we moved in with a pre-set script for living and loving and serving. We had an entire arsenal of things we thought would help us reach our neighbors with the hope of the Gospel. We pulled out a calendar and penciled in all sorts of neighborhood outreach events and for two years, we worked our plan.

We passed out loaves of bread and repaired homes and hosted movie nights on the lawn. If you can think it up, we probably did it and spent a great deal of dollars doing it.

But in our third year of making crazy and doing all that we knew to do, we just sorta ditched everything and just plain quit. We were seeing zero fruit and although we knew our neighbors' names, we didn't know our neighbors.

We spent the whole next year, simply living in our house on Avent street. We put picnic tables in the front yard and started leaving the side gate open to the backyard when we had bonfires. If kids wandered into the yard, we served them Little Debbies and kool-aid. We spent countless hours on the front porch. We opened up our home and our yard and blurred the lines between us and them. We began to live with lives wide open, taking in whoever walked down the sidewalk in front of our house.

And you know what happened?

Our neighbors starting coming to see us. In droves.

Our life became one big interruption after another and we soon came to realize that everytime someone knocked on the front door of our house, we were being invited into what Jesus was doing in our neighborhood.

Over time, we began to see these interruptions as the tangible evidence of Jesus at work in our community. He was working a plan that we could not control or manipulate with our own desire to do something good for our neighbors.

These interruptions served as a signal that said we needed to stop what we were doing, open the front door, and enter into the lives of whoever was on the other side of the threshold because Jesus was already at work and He was simply giving us a front row seat.

As we seek to make the Great Commandment our life's mission, we would do well to aim small and see our distinct communities as our specific mission fields. 

Jesus has placed us, right where He wants us because He is already at work in the lives of those who live around us. Our job is to live lives that welcome others in. Jesus does not need our grand plans or our color coded calendars filled to the gills with programs.

Jesus needs people who will simply open the front door and welcome others in.

Lori Harris is a Southern born, Texas-missing girl, who is rearing her six kids in a neighborhood some would call the ‘hood. She and her bi-vocational husband have planted Fellowship Bible Church Rocky Mount on the wrong side of the railroad tracks where poverty runs deep and racism even deeper. She passes out PBJs to the neighborhood kids, and brews coffee just to make the house smell like Jesus. She writes at

This post is part of the 31 Days of Neighboring series.

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