It does not matter how good your apologetics arguments are if no one listens to you. The Apostle Peter says to have an apologetic for everyone who asks you about your faith (1 Peter 3:16). How might we create situations in which people ask us?
One way is by being a Christian neighbor, by neighboring well. The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us to be a neighbor to the person in front of us. The expert in the law passed by because the Samaritan was not in his social group. In a way, everyone is our neighbor, but God has us where we are for his reasons (Acts 17:28-29). We tend to associate more based on affinity (people like us) than on proximity (the people next door, down the street, or on the corner). We often do not even know our neighbor’s names and they do not know ours.
We tend to associate more based on affinity (people like us) than on proximity (the people next door, down the street, or on the corner).
Jesus calls us to be good neighbors whether or not this leads to apologetics and evangelism. It is a simple imperative of love. Our neighbors may be quite different from us. So be it. Since relationships trump programs for making friends and presenting the gospel to others, how might we be more open to our neighbors, especially non-Christians?
I cannot say I do this well, but since I was convicted and encouraged by David Runyon’s recent sermon, here are some ideas.
Spend more time in your front yard or on your front porch, if you have either. Decades ago, front porches were more important than back porches. My back porch is expansive. But I don’t meet anyone there. The front porch is tiny. Still, my wife and I can sit there and greet neighbors.
Admire your neighbor’s dogs or other pets. People usually love their pets and enjoy talking about them. Our neighbors sometimes bring their dog over to play with Sunny, my dog.
Don’t immediately shut your garage door when you come home. Look around outside to see if there is someone to greet or help.
Consider common places in your neighborhood. My neighborhood does not have individual mail boxes, but rather a common mail station with many individual slots. Hang out there.
Have people over for meals. Be hospitable. Be convivial.
Have or attend block parties. I realized recently that our difficult neighbor is the one who sponsors the block party every year! I don’t.
Mow your neighbor’s lawn or shovel their snow. I have not done this in our new house, but our neighbors do it for us! I dig that. They know of our struggles with my wife’s dementia. So, they help.
Ask a neighbor out to dinner or lunch. I am going to do this with our kind neighbors who shovel and mow. I have given them a gift card, but sharing a meal is more personal. I also know that they both have some intellectual issues they would like to discuss, but it hasn’t happened yet.
I realize that some people, myself included, have troubles that don’t allow them as much hospitality and social interaction as they might like. God understands that
Realize that some neighbors won’t want to get to know you. They, like so many, are too busy. But this should not stop us from trying. We have been given many cogent arguments for Christianity, but we need people to hear what we have to say. And we need to hear what they have to say. Isn’t your neighborhood a good place for that?
See Jay Pathak and David Runyon, The Art of Neighboring.