by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon
In this easy to read book, Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon challenge us as followers of Christ to truly live the Great Commandment – to love our God with everything we have and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Many times, this commandment is taken more figuratively where our neighbor is just anyone we meet along the road of life. Pathak and Runyon though focus on the literal meaning of neighbor – those who live right next door to you.
The authors invite us to take the first steps in loving our neighbors by just getting to know them. Of the neighbors immediately around your home, do you know their names, some relevant information about them that would only come from a conversation (drives a red car doesn’t count!), or any in-depth information about them such as dreams, plans, beliefs? They give a simple tool in a block map to track your progress in getting to know your neighbors.
Pathak and Runyon address the barriers to getting to know, and love, your neighbors: time and fear. They also give first steps to take when getting to really know and love your neighbors seems overwhelming. As you move from stranger to acquaintance to relationship, begin with small steps of loving care by sharing in small acts of kindness: tutoring a child, helping repair a mower, or inviting neighbors to dinner.
The ultimate (not ulterior) goal in loving your neighbors is to introduce them to a loving relationship with Jesus Christ. Pathak and Runyon give simple steps in moving a relationship toward an open and sincere conversation about your relationship with our Father God. They also address an important principle in community development – avoid approaching relationships as projects and you are the “superneighbor”. Rather strive to work with your neighbors and not just do for them which means receiving as well as giving.
Being a good neighbor may mean knowing many neighbors yet placing boundaries so that you are close to just a few. Neighboring will be messy. There will be times when you need to forgive and move one. Don’t assume you are alone either. Enlist others, a partner or a team, to pool your gifts and love for your neighbors.
The Art of Neighboring would make a great read for a church community group. Six sets of discussion material are included at the end of the book, each one covering two chapters, with a Bible passage to read and study together as well as questions for discussion and action steps. You can also find more resources at their website www.artofneighboring.com.