I have to admit, when I think about neighboring as a Christian, I generally only think about the role and actions that I’m taking to befriend and serve others. I have a much harder time thinking about others serving me as being a part of neighboring. It would be a little weird to have a neighboring relationship only be one-sided though, wouldn’t it? Relationships are intended to be mutual, but it requires us to also show humility to receive back from others whom we are investing in.
We can see this concept of caring for each other in the financial collection for Jerusalem by Paul, he says in 2 Corinthians 8:14,
“your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness”
Paul’s teaching on voluntary and generous giving to help fellow believers was followed up by a reminder that giving to each other is a back and forth depending on life circumstances. There will be times when you have more to give and times when you need to receive. Part of being a neighbor is allowing others to be a part of your life as well. No one wants to feel like they are just your outreach project, people want to know you care and are their friend. Friends take care of each other and carry each other burdens.
Here’s some real-life examples of what reciprocal neighboring can look like.
I’ve always been ready to say yes to opportunities to serve my neighbors, but it felt like a big step to ask for others help. Finally, out of desperation, I had to give in and ask a neighbor to watch my kids for a week because I found myself in a babysitter bind and to my surprise, she said yes. By now, asking neighbors to watch our kids or to watch their kids is a totally normal thing in the cul-de-sac.
Beyond working together to help with childcare, here’s a couple other ways we neighbor together:
Lending out tables and chairs for parties
Sharing garden produce and knowledge
A neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt
Praying together & talking about life’s struggles and anxieties
Sharing joys and big life events together
Being a part of community is much more than just what you’re able to put into it. Relationships depend on the involvement of both people. Even the fact that we have a triune God testifies to this fact. He’s relational, each person has a unique role in the Trinity. In the same way, each member of the Church body has a unique role and gift given to them for the benefit of others.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 1 Corinthians 12:14
While not all your neighbors may be Christians and have spiritual gifts, that are still creations of God with unique abilities. Neighboring well can and should include allowing them to also use their skills for others, lifting them up to see their value and abilities as useful, and to be humble enough to recognize that you don’t have to be the only one giving in a neighboring relationship.