This fall I moved into a new neighborhood, so I‘ve been asking myself lately how I can be a good neighbor. My new neighbors on my block have set the standard high – they were so welcoming when my roommates and I moved in, giving us chairs, coffee makers, benches, internet, and great hospitality. The Bible has a lot to say about how we treat our neighbors, from in the law (“Love your neighbor as yourself” Leviticus 19:18 ) to the prophets (“In that day each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree, declares the Lord Almighty” Zechariah 3:10) to the gospels (the parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37). Like the expert in the law, I wonder what is required of me when I am commanded to “love my neighbor.” I am challenged by Jesus’ response to the question, "Who is my neighbor?" which calls us to move from ignorance, inaction, and neglect to knowledge, action, and love. I am challenged to think outside my typical concept of neighbor (friends, family, the people next-door).
This fall we had the pleasure of hosting two local adult groups – one for a weekend and the other for just a day. The first was a group of seven men from Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA, which is about 30 minutes outside of DC. The second group was comprised of about 50 working professionals who are a part of the C.S. Lewis Institute‘s Fellows Program in Northern Virginia. Hosting both of these groups was an exciting change for me, especially since most of our groups are usually students from out of town. Because these were adults from the community (the neighborhood, if you will), we had the opportunity to potentially connect people and local ministries in a more permanent way.
During their trips, the men from IBC installed bookshelves at Ms. Hawkins‘ after-school program in Anacostia, and I took about a dozen women from the C.S. Lewis Institute to spend the morning with Dawnielle in a Christian community and non-profit called Casa Chirilagua in Northern Virginia. While the IBC men met a tangible need for Ms. Hawkins, Dawnielle showed us her neighborhood and told us stories of her neighbors – mostly Latino immigrants. Ms. Hawkins has worked to support and love the children in her own neighborhood for decades, and Dawnielle advocates for her neighbors in many tangible and practical ways.
However, the people the groups served weren‘t just neighbors for Ms. Hawkins and Dawnielle or neighbors from a few states over, but were in-my-own-backyard neighbors for many of the local trip participants. Their stories and struggles and joys take on a new meaning when we know of their presence and needs, we take action to meet those needs, and we allow our-selves to love and be loved in return. This is a spiritual kind of moving into the neighborhood – as we allow our-selves to be good neighbors and also allow ourselves to receive good neighboring. It was so exciting to hear the men identify more needs of Ms. Hawkins and talk about when they could return, and hear the women discuss how they could help out Casa Chirilagua on a more regular basis. Talk about being good neighbors! I love when I can see the fruit of what God does through CSM!
Isn’t it awesome that we serve a God who modeled how to be a good neighbor for us? In John 1:14, as interpreted by the Message Bible, it says that, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”
What a profound thought! I pray that all of you would encounter God‘s glory, generosity and truth as we feel his presence in our lives and neighborhoods, and as he continues to widen our view of our neighborhood.
-Kristen Erbelding, CSM Washington DC Associate City Director