“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
Jesus commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. What if He meant that we are supposed to love our actual neighbors – the people living right next door to us? While we may have a desire to reach out to our neighbors, we oftentimes end up making excuses for ourselves not to.
As a former pastor and business leader, Dave Runyon can relate to the common excuse of busyness. He shares how God began to work on his heart to build genuine relationships with his actual neighbors.
“As a pastor, I was so busy doing all kinds of different things; I was sitting on different nonprofit boards, I have all these responsibilities at work and then mostly I just come home and crash. I wasn’t really engaged with the people who God had placed right around me.”
Dave began to recognize that he needed to be more intentional and slow down in order to show his neighbors the love of Christ.
In 2010, he partnered with other local pastors and launched a neighboring movement that mobilized over 70 churches and 40,000 people in the Denver Metro area. He describes how “Block Maps” can be a helpful tool to use when it comes to getting to know our neighbors.
“My friend and I started to do this little exercise where we just asked people to write down their neighbors’ names. If you just kind of imagine walking outside your front door and the eight closest households to you. Wherever you are, you have neighbors. Now if I asked you right now to list off the names of the adults in those eight units, how many of you think that you could do?”
“Most of us have met all those neighbors. We’ve waved to them multiple times, we’ve even got their names a few times. But some of them we’ve just forgotten.”
Dave explains how a small step, like remembering our neighbor’s names, can go a long way.
“I’ve learned that there is great power in taking small steps and learning somebody’s name and then just being curious about their interests. What are the things that they’re passionate about? And then just being willing to live in a way in which you have enough margin in your life that you can take small steps towards the people who are open to it.”
“There’s a lot of people that live around me that really don’t want to be my friend. They are really busy, and that’s fine. But there’s a lot of people around me that are dying for something else; they’re dying for something that’s a little bit deeper than what they have.”
To truly love our neighbors, we need to overcome stumbling blocks including time and fear. We can take a few small steps to make a huge impact in our communities and carry out Jesus’ command.
Dave Runyon is the co-founder and director of CityUnite, which helps government, business, and faith leaders unite around common causes. Dave speaks locally and nationally encouraging leaders to work together for the good of their cities. He is co-author of .Loving our actual neighbors