JUST A MINUTE: WHO IS MY NEIGHBOUR?
Who is my neighbour? – By Gustav Krös, incoming director
A few months ago, I completed a research questionnaire focussing on urban mission initiatives. With more and more people moving to cities all over the world, the need to rethink mission strategies within in this context is becoming more urgent. One of the questions that was asked, was: “What are some fundamental questions we need to ask ourselves in order to be effective/successful in urban missions?”
The first thought that came to mind was: “What is my neighbour’s name?”
It dawned on me that if we want to focus on reaching people with the Gospel within our cities, then the first step should surely be to start with my neighbour. The Gospel is shared most effectively between people who are in a relationship with one another and trust each other. This used to be the case between neighbours, but unfortunately in Western societies people have become so individualistic that the natural relationships that used to exist between neighbours has faded away.
As a child, I knew all our neighbours and almost all the people living in a 200m radius of us. I knew exactly what work they did, where the children went to school and which church they attended. Now I don’t know 90% of the people living in a 200m radius of me, and I believe this is the case for many people living in Western societies. The fast-paced, technologically advanced, individually focussed lives we have been sucked into have robbed us of the sense of community we used to have with our neighbours. As a result, we have lost the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with our neighbours, and to be salt and light (Matt. 5:13-15) within the communities where God has placed us. Our high walls, security gates and electric fences have become the proverbial ‘bowl’ that we have placed over ourselves and that’s preventing us from letting our light shine within our communities. Without us realising it, we have allowed ourselves to be so manipulated by the world we live in, that we have become irrelevant within our communities.
Wherever salt and light are present, they make a difference. If we, as Christians no longer make a difference in the areas where we spend most of our time – our neighbourhoods and workplaces – then we have lost our ‘saltiness’ and have placed a ‘bowl’ over ourselves. You can test yourself in this by asking whether you will be missed by your neighbours or colleagues if you should move away?
Because the reality is, if you will not be missed, then you are not making any difference at all.
This was a timely reminder for me, that I can be so focused on reaching the ends of the earth with the Gospel that I forget about my own ‘Jerusalem’ (Acts 1:8) in the process. So, it’s time for me to breach my own security gate and invite my neighbour for a cup of coffee – we are, after all, supposed to love our neighbour as ourselves.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)