After living in Charlottesville for one week, some places are beginning to become familiar. It is not home quite yet, but I no longer feel like a visitor. Soon, Charlottesville will be ours. We will have our parks, our trails, our shops, our streets, and yes, our home too. Someone will say, “Do you know where this or that is?” I will be delighted to say, “Yes!” As we gather shared experiences, we are becoming neighbors.
Becoming neighbors takes time. It is not as simple as moving into a neighborhood. The Greek plesios means “near or neighboring.” This was the word used in the story of the Good Samaritan in the gospel of Luke. But, a neighbor is more than that, more than being near. Being neighbors means sharing our interests and our lives. It means worshipping together, eating together, playing together, laughing together, and crying together. As we gather shared experiences, my family and I will continue becoming your neighbors.
In his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists of listening to them. Just as love of God begins with listening to the Bible, so the beginning of love for our brothers and sisters is learning to listen to them.” In our church, we are all on a journey together. Bonhoeffer’s idea of “listening” relates to his understanding God’s love. We understand God's love through listening to the Bible. Likewise, we become neighbors through listening and sharing experiences with one another. Listening is a key element in becoming neighbors. Each of us can listen and share experiences as fellow sojourners in Christ.
In Luke, Jesus told the man who asked “Who is my neighbor (plesios)?” about an unlikely person (a Samaritan, for crying out loud!) who qualified as a neighbor (Luke 10:29-37). The Samaritan was not simply nearby. Instead, the Samaritan became a neighbor by listening-to and sharing-in another person’s experience. The neighbor walks along with another.