In a recent RAMS Home Loans survey in Australia, it was revealed that 1 in 5 people don't know their neighbours at all. Our poor neighbourly relationships have led to the introduction of an annual 'Neighbour Day' in Australia each March.
This is a day initiated in 2003 by Melbourne resident, Andrew Heslop, after he learned of the discovery of the remains of an elderly neighbour in her home (wrapped in a blanket on her sofa) almost 2 years after her death. While I certainly applaud this initiative, I find it disturbing that we actually need an initiative such as this to focus our attention on spending time with our neighbours. While one day of friendship a year is a very good start, what happens on the remaining 364 days?
When Jesus instructed us to love our neighbours, I wonder what He meant? How do we define our neighbours, and what does it mean to love them?
I believe if I was sharing coffee and a chat with Jesus' today, He would tell me that our neighbours are anyone in our life. If I were to use this as a measure I would certainly say that I am loving towards my friends, work colleagues and family.
Does that mean I can give myself a pat on the back on that point, and move on? Or did Jesus also mean He wanted us to love our actual neighbours; the people who live next door to us? (This would be another question I would ask Him over coffee.)
What if I don't even know who my neighbours are? I put a lot of research into the decision to buy our house but spending time with the neighbours was never a part of that process. This is when Jesus' instruction to us becomes a little more challenging and may be pushing at the boundaries of our personal comfort zone, however it is this very reason that makes me believe this is exactly what Jesus' was asking of us.
I think He wants more from us than to just love those who we have chosen to spend time with. I believe He also wants us to share this love more widely, and that may include people we would typically not spend time with, or people we may have very little in common with, whether we literally live next door to them or not.
There are many things we could do to respond with love to this instruction from Jesus: a conversation, invitation for coffee, offer to collect the holiday mail, bringing in the rubbish bins. Whatever small or large steps you may decide to take to show love to your neighbours, I pray you are delighted in the response you receive.