My neighbor? Everyone...no one?
In his prophetic book The Secular City (Macmillan Company; New York: 1965) liberal Harvard Divinity School professor and theologian Harvey Cox predicted that the city of the future would be characterized by anonymity and mobility. As a seminary student years ago my strongly conservative worldview and high view of Scripture found little resonance with Cox's radical agenda, theological or social. His depiction of the world we're living in right now, however, was accurate. Look around. Take note. It's a world of strangers on the move. Being a biblical neighbor in a mobile, anonymous world could be one of our greatest challenges.
There's irony in these contrasts. Technology and the advent of social media has created a nearness never before imagined by the human species. At the same time these innovations have taught us the new skills of ignoring, unfollowing, unfriending, exiting conversations, hitting the mute button, or hiding friends or comments. Apps like Cloak and Hell is Other People are downloads in the new and growing anti-social movement. The truth is we're closer than ever before. No, we're more distant than ever before. So, who is my neighbor?
It's an appropriate question. Remember the time a first century lawyer asked Jesus "who is my neighbor?" (see Luke 10:25-27, The Parable of the Good Samaritan). Several in my pastor cohort batted this thing around for a while because being a neighbor in this anonymous, mobile world is a challenge. We decided, based on our assessment of Scripture, everyone is my neighbor. At the same time, with contemporary culture as our point of reference, no one is my neighbor. We're closer than ever before. But, also farther apart. It's a strange admixture of human innovation.
The New Testament provides a unique angle on our treatment of others. More than fifty specific passages provide details about our relationships with one another, that is, the people within the community of faith; fellow Christians. Then, there are references about how we interact with everyone; those outside that more intimate circle. We're most often not up close and personal with them. But, Scripture gives instruction about how we relate to them. Take note of these examples---
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.
Philippians 4: 5, ESV
See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another
and to everyone.
1 Thessalonians 5: 15, ESV
And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach,
patiently enduring evil.
2 Timothy 2: 24, ESV
Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood.
1 Peter 2: 17, ESV
Strive for peace with everyone.
Hebrews 12: 14, ESV
The truth is, everyone is my neighbor. You know, the maniac in the next lane on the commute every morning; the person writing a check in the long line at the discount store; the felon who lives down the street; the guy with the noisy motorcycle who leaves for work at 5:00 a.m. every morning; the Muslim immigrants who moved into the complex around the corner; and all the other people who occupy so many anonymous slots in this odd world.
Hey, it's Manic Heights. Welcome to the Neighborhood.
Author's note: The title Manic Heights, Welcome to the Neighborhood was borrowed from the blog site originated and authored by our son, Brian Eliot Holmes before his death July 18, 2011. He later changed the name of the blog to Inner Turmoil.
Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_gurb'>gurb / 123RF Stock Photo</a>