We moved quite a bit growing up. Not the kind of moving that a military brat does, but we were simply transient within our own city limits. But eleven moves before I went to college means I’ve had a lot of neighbors. My mom’s best friend, Ms. Nancy, lived across the street once and my youngest brother would walk in her front door and ask to see her then thirteen-year-old daughter. He’d say with all the chivalry a four-year-old can muster, “Where’s that pretty girl?” Another neighbor worked on classic cars and always approved of the gathering of his adoring adolescent fans. There were families who gave me my first paid babysitting gigs and friends I paid gas money to take me to school in order to save me the embarrassment of being dropped off by, gasp, a parent. As I think back on the people who shared subdivisions, streets, and lot lines with us I can’t help but smile. My neighbors were good people.
As I’ve grown, my understanding of neighboring has expanded past proximity and life overlap. True neighboring requires something far more intimate than proximity—it requires interest. And it’s driven by something far more difficult than life overlap—it’s driven by purpose.
Interest in others engages you in their pain and suffering, their mundane, and their reason for popping champagne on a Tuesday. And you can show it through shared activity like the bread making Laura Fabrycky teaches at her house. However you show it, interest cultivates a community that’s known.
If interest enlightens us about one another then purpose intertwines us. As Kaitlin Curtice says, “We belong to one another.” That means true neighbors don’t know each other for gossip’s sake, but for the sake of each other’s betterment.
I’d be tempted to call the practical parts of interest and purpose something like “gospel flourishing,” but that makes neighboring sound tidy. It’s not, really. To be a neighbor is to live life on our toes, welcoming the rearrangement of our days, our opinions, and even our feelings because we’re in it, whatever it is, with and for our neighbors.
When we embody neighboring it infiltrates every aspect of our life, nothing is off limits. Dan Darling points out in “Why Pastoring Won’t Let Me Quit Politics” that politics is a neighbor issue. In “Teaching Confession, Learning Repentance,” Joe George proves that our convictions may change when we engage with interest and purpose.
In “Cross the Threshold” Jamie Hughes beckons us across property lines, but in case we think that neighborly care stands reserved for people across the street, Kaitlin Wernet is here to remind us that family are neighbors too in her article, “The Gifts That Came with Survivor’s Guilt.” Ian McLoud sees church members as neighbors in “Youth Group or Frat House?” and Justin McGee reminds us of our international neighbors in “Should I hate for those few evil ones?”
Neighboring requires interest and purpose. It’s requires skin in the game. And it’s the kind of neighbor we want to be.
Cover image by Breno Assis.