Love Thy (Lonely) Neighbor

We just moved into a new house this week, and our next-door neighbor was swift to come over and introduce herself. It was a lovely introduction as she gushed about what a great little neighborhood it is (and that was music to my ear after a five-month home search process!) As she gave us the scoop on the several surrounding neighbors and families (life stages, ages of kids, etc.), she took an extra few moments to mention the neighbor next to her, who is apparently a very quiet, older gentleman. She shared that he lives alone, and they don’t see him much, especially in light of COVID. However, she mentioned that they invite him over for Thanksgiving and Christmas every year. She also shared that when her father spent some brief time living with them, he and this gentleman would talk for hours. It was the most lively she has seen him.

The story really stuck with me day as I went about preparations for the move that day. First, it left me thrilled to move next door to a neighbor who cares so much about her neighbor that she makes sure he doesn’t spend the holidays alone. The second was the point she shared that since COVID, they have really not seen him at all, and he rarely ventures out.

A consequence we see in Genesis of being created in God’s image is that we are designed for relationship with God and one another. We have already seen that God is inherently relational (Genesis 1:26), so as images of a relational God, we are inherently relational. The second part of Genesis 1:27 makes the point again, as it speaks of us not individually this time, but in twos, “Male and female he created them.” We are in relationship with our Creator and with our fellow man/woman. These relationships are not left as philosophical abstracts in Genesis. We see God talking and working with Adam in naming the animals (Gen. 2:19). We see God visiting Adam and Eve in the garden (Gen. 3:8).

Whether we are introverted or extroverted, we were NOT designed to be lonely beings. It goes against the core of God’s perfect design for us. We need to be extra intentional about spending time with others right now. And God gave us clear direction on that in the Bible. Jesus himself is not only the greatest model of a friend, but He also commanded others to walk in community with one another. In John 15:12-13 Jesus says:

“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”  

And Praise God He’s given us friends to do life with—to laugh and cry, struggle and rejoice, and pray together. How do we know this? We can look around and see that thay are to our left and right. Look at the people He has put in your life… the neighbors, the classmates, the co-workers. Even when in physical isolation, let’s not put ourselves in spiritual or emotional isolation. Let’s seek out the ones who seem lonely. Whether through encouraging words, cards, zoom calls, phone calls, or friendly hellos across the street, we each have opportunities each day to connect with others, encourage each other, and make this world in which we’re journeying feel less complex and lonely.

I truly hope I have the opportunity to physically see and meet the gentleman two doors down. But even if I can’t right now, our family definitely intends to reach out to him with a card and care package, so he knows he has a new neighbor two doors down who cares about him too. I think it’s wonderful that God put him in this neighborhood, clearly to have a neighbor such as the one he has, who intentionally reaches out to him to ensure he is okay and taken care of, and who refuses to let him be lonely over the holidays. Friends, that is truly putting into action what God commanded. And it is a beautiful thing!

Lord, during a time when the world says distance yourself, and when keeping to ourselves is now more than ever, acceptable, please help me to break through barriers of physical distancing. Please bring people together as only You can. Help our neighbors to know how to love one another even when we can’t physically be together. Your light shines brightly through any barriers that could ever be placed. Help our family to carry Your light and shine through them, especially in our new neighborhood. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.