Ok, I want to be a good neighbor, but where do I start? Let’s try using the Micah 6:6-8 passage as a framework for being a good neighbor: embracing justice, doing kindness and growing our humility.
“With what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has told you, O mortal, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?”
Let’s look a little deeper…
Two of those requirements seem to express life with our neighbors: 1) advocating and acting for justice, and 2) crafting a life of kindness in our words and actions. Can we look around and explore what justice means for our neighbors? What are our opportunities to advocate for all people to have the same opportunities and to be treated with the same respect and dignity which we enjoy or demand for ourselves? Today’s culture wars in our society often seem predicated on winning and losing, as if dignity and respect were limited commodities which we either give away or keep. In truth, those are limitless commodities which we can share and give away without losing a bit of our own.
The third requirement, that of humility, seems rooted in our time with God and the intentionality we have for growing into the people God has called us to be. We need to make sure that we are filling our hearts with good things so that the fruit of our words and actions are good. (Luke 6:43-45) But remember, we aren’t putting on capes and becoming super heroes flying around and saving the world! We’re just people, fashioned and empowered by God’s love and grace, doing what we can to make little bit of difference for the people around us, sharing the kind of life that is really living.
Justice: what is right?
What are some ways we can advocate or uplift the cause of justice in our neighbors’ lives? The perfect place to begin is in prayer, but then we have to make sure that our prayer includes asking God to help us to act; prayer should lead to action. We can write to our political representatives to encourage them to uphold someone’s dignity or to protect our neighbors’ needs for justice. We can sign petitions and advocate for other’s rights. We can be voice for the marginalized and a voice of welcome for those who are being excluded. We can make sure that in our own language and choices we practice welcome, inclusion and uphold respect and dignity for all people.
Kindness: sharing joy.
What about kindness? Is there a need in your neighborhood you could help meet? Who do you know who needs a hand with something? Is there some litter that could picked up, someone struggling who could use an encouraging word, a note or a visit? Remember that kindness is sharing the joy that God has poured into our lives, not what someone has deserved or earned. We can be intentional about kindness; kindness is a choice and a lifestyle.
Humility: time with God.
And there’s our walk with God. How are we making time to be with God in prayer, meditation, study and conversation? How are we seeking God? There are many ways to grow our faith and our experience of God. We can read and study scripture and other supporting books and devotionals. We can spend time in quiet meditation or going for a walk with God, walking down the street or on a wooded path. We can immerse ourselves in music and praise. We can find a spiritual director or friend to help us go deeper in prayer and listening for God.
Making a plan.
What’s keeping us from sitting and prayerfully and choosing an issue of justice, an act of kindness and a practice of spending time with God on which to focus for the week? Imagine the intentionality of choosing an issue of injustice to confront in ourselves and our society, a concrete way we intend to be kind to the people around us, and a practice of growing our faith, and then placing reminders around for us in the coming week. What could we accomplish? How much better would the world be for each person in it who actively embraces justice, kindness and humble growth?
Here’s how this might look, choosing intentions for a week or even a month, developing habits and embracing our place in community as a good neighbor:
- Justice: One group of people who so often get treated as political pawns and not as human beings are the poor souls seeking asylum in our country. I’m going to learn about the situations they are fleeing from in their home countries, and learn about the groups local and national who are helping them, and I’m going to see how I can be involved in supporting these most vulnerable of neighbors.
- Kindness: When I go for my neighborhood walks I’m going to take gloves and a trash bag and get all the litter I can carry! And if there’s a neighbor outside they are going to get a big smile and greeting from me. I hope to greet and get to know a neighbor I currently don’t know.
- God Time: I’m going to start every day with a five minute quiet time, using my phone to set a timer, to just sit and sip my coffee and read and meditate on Psalm 42.
What would your intentions look like?