by Sam Miranda
There are times I deeply meditate about what Jesus said in terms of loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and to love my neighbor as myself. A command to love people who believe differently than me, to love people who may hurt me, to love everyone who is practically near me, sometimes becomes an overwhelmingly daunting task. But when I surround myself with the truth that God’s mission is God’s and that He is drawing me and empowering me through His Spirit to live with Him on this journey, the pressure lifts, and I begin to live the life and love that are characteristics of God’s mission in this world. Lately, I’ve been asking myself: How does loving my neighbor impact where I live? Did God place me in my neighborhood for a reason? How can I show the love of Christ where the love of Christ is not within that neighborhood? And despite having over a thousand friends within all the social media outlets : How many people do I actually know and love in my own back yard?
“On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets”
Matt. 22:40 ESV
Like me, you may be thinking, Jesus ministered in a time where people were born and lived and raised families in the same little area connected to the same people who practically did everything together but in a contemporary urban society that’s just not the reality. The neighborhood is just one context that we move constantly between and we have to approach this idea of loving our neighbor realistically because neighborhoods are different today than they once were. However, we can’t in the process neglect what’s right in front of our faces. The neighborhood may not have the playing field to itself as a place of community but it reminds a fundamental important part of our everyday lives. We think very carefully, most of us, what neighborhood we will buy into, where we’ll raise our children, what schools we want them to go to, what resources and parks are available, etc. We still long for a neighborhood that has some sense of connection, community, and wholesomeness within it.
“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”
John 1:14 MSG
Neighborhood reminds an important part of our wider urban fabric and when we neglect the most local associations, then the whole urban fabric will begin to disintegrate. If we fail to connect at the most local levels to build relationships to some degree, then our neighborhoods become nothing more than a collection of individual fortresses where we experience more fear of the people living across the street than friendship and cooperation. For the sake of the city we must find a reconnection to the places of our lives and begin to weave them into our community experience.
One of the ways we can rediscover and recover our vocation as God’s missionary people in the local, is by being part of a community group in your neighborhood. Let’s begin framing and shaping together as followers of Christ an alternative story than that of the dominant culture. A story that embodies God’s presence and reign rather than individualism, self-containment and consumption.
“In this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”
Gal. 6:2 NIV