When a lawyer asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?,” the Lord told him to be a neighbor. And He still does!
Over two decades ago, Robert Putnam’s ground-breaking book “Bowling Alone” warned us of the alarming trend of Americans becoming isolated from one another, and how time-honored social institutions in our communities, such as the PTA, political parties, and even the church, have been devastated. Chuck Colson said this trend was “in part a result of our relentless pursuit of what political scientist Michael Sandel calls ‘the unencumbered self.’” Mind you, this was even before we all retreated to our cell phones and computer screens.
So how are we doing today? The latest statistics say: not so hot. According to the General Social Survey, only about 20% of Americans spend time regularly with their neighbors, while a third say they’ve never interacted with them. Just four decades ago, however, one-third of Americans hung out with neighbors at least two times a week. Only a fourth reported having no interaction. The Pew Research Center in 2010, meanwhile, found that while 43% of Americans know most or all of their neighbors, nearly a third say they know none of them by name.
For whatever reason, it appears that fewer of us are able to answer the old question, “And who is my neighbor?” How do we Christians overcome this growing cultural tide of isolation and obey our calling to be witnesses to Jesus Christ?
Ed Stetzer, who, among many other things, is co-host with John Stonestreet of “BreakPoint This Week,” provides an amazingly simple way that we can be a neighbor to our neighbors. In an article posted for Christianity Today, Ed tells about how he moved from Nashville to Wheaton, Illinois—often called the “evangelical mecca”—and received a four-page letter from some longtime Wheaton residents who live across the street.
The letter, titled “In Our Humble Opinion,” starts off by saying, “I know you are going to find it to be a wonderful community to live in BUT it can be a little daunting at first. I moved into the brick house across the street from you when I was 12. Now we have lived in the cream house next door to that house for 23 years. I guess we like it here…”
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