Growing up in the 80s and 90s, who didn’t want to be Mr. Roger’s neighbor? I always wanted to go hang out at his house, feed his fish, change my shoes and sweater, and make Trolley go visit the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Growing up in the church, I often heard the phrase “love your neighbor as yourself” (second greatest command according to Jesus… check out Matthew 22:37-40). So, the whole “neighbor” thing was definitely up my alley. Later in life, I learned that good ol’ Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister. I sometimes wonder what kind of a neighbor he was like in real life.
I recently took a job working as an administration clerk in local law enforcement. I don’t remember exactly how it came up, but one of my co-workers mentioned that she lived next door to a “minister” (pastor, priest, preacher, whatever you want to call it) that was one of the worst neighbors she had ever had. I was both extremely discouraged and totally fascinated by her statement. I asked her to provide some details at to what made him a bad neighbor. She shared everything from his antagonism towards other neighbors, his unfriendly demeanor, his rudeness to her on several occasions, and his harshness towards his own family. I realize I’m only getting her side of the story, but there was enough detail in the stories that reminded me of various pastors I’ve known to make it more than likely that my co-worker was telling the truth.
Which is really sad.
Truthfully, Christians should be the best neighbors. We’re commanded to serve, to love, to be kind, to help, to provide when people are in need, and to put others before ourselves. I realize none of us are perfect (and I’ve often been the “hermit neighbor,” particularly when I was playing music full-time), but our faith really is supposed to affect us in our lives. 1 Peter 2:2 (NIV) speaks to this concept with these words: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”
So while we may not always be the greatest neighbors ever all the time, we really shouldn’t be willing to settle for less than “better than average neighbor most of the time” status with those we live near. If you think about it, it’s possible, I’d even say likely, that one of the reasons God places us in the place that we live is so that we’ll be the kind of neighbors that make an Eternal impact on those living next to us.
On that note, next time you have the opportunity to do something kind for your neighbor, do it. With any luck, you’ll have the kind of impact on someone that when their co-worker says something like “my neighbor is a Christian and he is such a jerk” they can respond with “huh? that’s weird, my neighbor is a Christian, too, but she’s amazing… she’s the best neighbor I’ve ever had.” And in that way, you’ll be a pathmaker.