404 Why I Refused to Love My Neighbor (Plus a Giveaway!) | Not Quite Amish

Why I Refused to Love My Neighbor (Plus a Giveaway!)

Why I Refused to Love My NeighborWhen our daughter outgrew her swing set, we sold it to an acquaintance who struggled to find a truck and some buddies to help haul it away. We weren’t home when his plan came together, so we told him to go ahead and get started. They removed the swings and were dismantling the slide when a woman came out of the house and asked why they stealing her swing set in broad daylight. They were at my neighbor’s house!

It’s a nightmare having a pizza delivered in my neighborhood. With its poorly marked winding streets all named after trees, the poor driver can never find our house—seriously, I use the strobe light app on my smart phone to signal them from the driveway or else they circle aimlessly while my dinner grows cold. There are people who have lived in our neighborhood for over 35 years who still don’t know the street names!

I got lost in my neighborhood, too.

I wandered aimlessly through my neighborhood, not paying attention to the people living around me. I refused to look up from my busy life and notice what was happening all around me. So when God reminded me of His #2 command to love my neighbor as myself, I was a little surprised. Then I was excited! But then I got scared. And finally, I told God why this was a just a terrible idea.

I patiently explained to the Lord that I was too busy to invest in my neighbor’s lives. I was caring for my husband and our daughter, working from home, volunteering at church and school, going to ministry school—these are all good and necessary things, right?

You know what else? I’m not spiritual enough. I don’t know the answers to life’s toughest questions. I’m a work in progress, an imperfect and implausible witness. Perfect excuse, right?

Besides, my house isn’t ready. I can’t plan Pinterest-worthy parties. You told Martha to back off, didn’t You? You want me to be tied up in religious business like her sister, Mary, right?

It’s risky. You never know who’s lurking behind those blinds. My neighbors don’t seem friendly. I could get hurt.

I had every excuse in the book, and most of them were valid.

I am busy, I am broken, my house is dusty, people are unpredictable. Trouble was, I couldn’t find an exception clause in the second-greatest commandment (trust me, I looked hard)—

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37–39

I had every excuse in the book for not loving my neighbor, and a few I’m sure God had never heard before—but I couldn’t find an asterisk or exemption to get me off the hook. After months of arguing with God, I finally knocked on my neighbors’ doors and invited them for coffee at my kitchen table.

At first, it felt awkward. It wasn’t always easy. But now? Since I’ve met Juanita and Linda, Mary Ann and Mary Sharon, Bonnie and Lauren? And my neighbors sat together in my living room last night and talked and laughed and cried and prayed?

Oh, yeah—the reward was worth the risk.

How about you? How are you loving your neighbors? Share a comment about how you reach out (or want to reach out!) to your neighbors, and you’ll be entered to win this lovely prize pack:

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  • 2 MUGS Adorable “Love Your Neighbor” mugs, one for you, one for your neighbor!
  • 10 CARDS to ask your neighbor over for coffee, board games, BBQ – you name it! Invite one neighbor or the whole block, whatever works.
  • 2 COFFEES Single-serve Columbian coffees.
  • 2 COASTERS to put under your steaming mugs.
  • 1 BOOK A signed copy of Amy’s book, How to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird.

 

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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Amy Lively (23 Posts)

Amy Lively is a speaker and the author of "How to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird" (May, Bethany House). She provides tips and tools for Christ’s #2 command drawing from her own experience knocking on her neighbors’ doors and leading a women’s neighborhood Bible study called The Neighborhood Cafe. She is passionate about helping people identify their unique ministry gifts and use them in their community. Amy lives in Lancaster, Ohio with her husband, their daughter, a holy dog and an unsaintly cat. Learn more at www.howtoloveyourneighbor.com.


Comments

  1. Ah, those sound like all the same reasons I have around here. Plus, everyone else in the neighborhood seems so busy that I don’t want to bother them. Honestly I am not quite sure where to start.

    • Amy Lively says:

      We’re not much different no matter where we live, how old we are, the design of our neighborhood. I bet if you took one tiny step (say hello, exchange names, take them a food gift or flower) you would be delighted with the results! This Memorial Day weekend is a great time to start!

  2. I have so tried to be a good neighbour. I have invited them round – they always refuse; I have talked to them over the garden wall; I have looked after their property when they’ve been away; I have even given them advice in my line of business (family law) when they asked me. Yet I don’t know them at all and they have never been inside my house (despite me asking) and I have never been inside theirs (never invited) – even though we have lived next door to each other for twenty years :( I have no neighbours the other side and just don’t know how to engage with them at all.

  3. Amy Lively says:

    Bless you for trying! That’s a long time… but not quite long enough. Remember Paul said, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9

  4. Chris, I hear you! God counts your trying and knows what is in your heart. I recently decided that I would invite the neighbors over for early morning coffee & tea. We’ll see how it works. Each year we host an Oktoberfest party & invite them but usually only 2 show up. Living on a cul de sac should make us closer, but there are still a few people I have no idea their names or family dynamic.

    • Amy Lively says:

      You can change the dynamic of your cul de sac. Keep talking, inviting, sharing, caring. Don’t give up!

  5. Kathy Colby says:

    I would love to feel confident enough to invite my neighbors to have a Bible study around my kitchen table. But with my health issues I am no longer able to keep a spic and span house .

    • Amy Lively says:

      That does make it difficult, Kathy. Our homes don’t have to be perfect, only welcoming. I wonder if you could invite someone out for coffee at a local restaurant?

  6. I live alone, and I have neighbors on one side of me that are my age. They seem like a nice couple and I’d love to become friends with them, but I honestly have no idea how to do it. I’ve lived beside them for seven months now!

    • Amy Lively says:

      Before you know it, seven months becomes seven years – that’s what happened to me! I encourage you to knock on their door and say hello. Don’t waste the next seven months/years/decades of what could be a beautiful friendship!

  7. We have a young family with three little girls that live across the street from us. We try to help them whenever they need something. They also help us with little things around our home. The little girls love to come over and sit on the front porch with us. Last year one of the neighbors on our block and myself hosted a “block party” and it went over well. It was nice to get to know our neighbors a bit better.

    • Amy Lively says:

      Loving their children is a sure way to a neighbor’s heart! And the block party idea is brilliant :)

  8. When we were younger, like years ago, we used to have block parties, patio parties and hang out over the fence talking to our neighbors, now we’re older, the kids are on their own and we all work somewhere out of the home. We see our neighbors, sort of, at church and as we pass in our cars on the road. Things have really changed from the past! Kind of really miss those days!

    • Amy Lively says:

      That does sound really, really nice – Mayberry like. In just one generation, neighborhoods have drastically changed. You can bring them back!

  9. kim amundsen says:

    I tried a few are bullies like to lie about people and some just don’t come out of there apts very often and don’t want people to come in or come over. Found that helping at the library and at the local animal shelter is a healthier way to live

    • Amy Lively says:

      Bless you for finding a better way! Some people are so closed off, we have to be very creative about loving them. But we can always pray!

  10. Maxie Lloyd-Hamilton Anderson says:

    Hi Amy. Up un til the past 19 years, I have always been blessed to have friendships with close neighbors. Since moving to this mobile park, I’ve only had a few close friendships. There used to be several that I visited with, but I was always the one doing the going. Or, we visited outside when we would see each other from time to time. GOD did bless me with a special friend for 5 or 6 years that we did things together, had morning coffee together, watched movies together, went out to eat, etc. Then she started having a few problems and one of her kids made her move in with her and she was never happy after that. But I thank God for the time we had. My neighbors now don’t speak English so we can’t communicate. makes it hard. Only have two men near me that are white so we visit outdoors a,d that is it. Just enjoy my church friends, but no one comes here. I have to do the going if I see them outside of church, so do get lonely. But my health is not like it was so don’t get out a lot. One of my new Mexican neighbors brought me a gift when they moved. And I did too. but can only talk if a son of hers is there to translate. I think we could be good friends if she knew English. Maxie > mac262(at)me(dot)com <

    • Amy Lively says:

      Maxie, your story makes me sad but also gives me hope. Your neighbors have changed, neighborhood has changed, your health has changed – yet your heart to love your neighbors is steadfast and unchanged. I pray that the Lord will send someone to you to ease your loneliness, and that He will reveal how you can love and be loved in your neighborhood.

  11. I live in an apartment complex that is predominately Hispanic. I am not. There is both a language and cultural barrier. They do not engage me and I do not engage them. I feel bad about it, but am not sure what to do.

    • Amy Lively says:

      I’m praying for clarity and breakthrough for you, Janeen – God has a purpose for your placement there!

  12. Jennifer says:

    Wow! What a timely article meant for my ears. This is the third time in a week God has brought it to my attention how little we know our neighbors, the first two being very convicting. Thanks for being transparent in your struggle and encouraging me to step out and show love to my neighbor!

    • Amy Lively says:

      Don’t you love the subtle way He whacks us over the head?! Hope you don’t fight obedience like I did… trust me, it’s better to trust and obey!

      • Jennifer says:

        Yes, I do tend to fight obedience and am learning the hard way that to trust and obey is the only way! Why is the song sometimes easier to sing than to put into action? Thanks again and looking forward to reading your book!

  13. Tabitha says:

    I needed this article to, again, remember those outside of my home. When we first moved to our neighborhood I baked loaves of bread and my kids had a blast going door to door introducing themselves and handing out homemade bread……we have developed aquantant type relationships with most of them, but due to all our busyness we’ve developed nothing deep thus far. I’m glad I read this! I’m going to go back to making an effort again. Believe me, speaking from the first time around, the responses were worth it! People were so surprised and excited to receive their bread and kept saying Thank you even weeks later!
    Thanks for the rreminder!!!

    • Amy Lively says:

      It’s easier to knock on their door with one hand if you’re holding a gift in the other! It’s not absolutely necessary, but since this worked so well for your family the first time I can’t wait to hear how it goes again! Please keep in touch :)

  14. Heather says:

    We helped our neighbor fix his tractor and we are supposed to get our families together soon for a meal. He brought us a sample of his homemade sausage and we gave him our fencing system to help with his dog. We love all of our neighbors so far and are very blessed. We also got to go to his house to see the deer he mounted on the wall this year. Always good conversation.

    • Amy Lively says:

      Sounds like you’ve found a great place to live and raise a family, Heather! Sounds lovely!

  15. Jessica Barr says:

    I make goodies that we pass out on holidays throughout the year, we smile and wave to those driving by when we are in the front yard and even invite my neighbors to church. I like knowing who we are living around.

    • Amy Lively says:

      Knowing who lives around you makes your community safe! So good to hear how you’ve made the first moves in your neighborhood.

  16. I would love to get together with my neighbors, but they are elderly and I have tried to invite them for dinner but they always politely decline. Maybe I should just make dinner and take it to them! How do I do that when I do not know if they have dietary restrictions?

    • Amy Lively says:

      Just ask! Or you could take them a dessert. Or – just go for a visit to chat! 9 out of 10 elderly reported that a chat (even on the phone) made them feel less lonely… but 1 in 4 had one to talk to. YOU can change that!

  17. lkish77123 says:

    I talk to all of my neighbors all of the time but we don’t socialize. I always say welcome to the neighborhood when new people move in. We live on a quiet street and everyone is busy with their own lives but I like people to know that we aren’t standoffish, just busy people.

    • Amy Lively says:

      Life is crazy busy! My challenge is taking the time to obey Christ’s #2 command. It’s too important to put on the back burner. I’m right there with ya!

  18. For me is very hard to reach out my neighbors because I’m very shy but what I do is that when I see them in need like the car won’t start or they have a flat tire I offer my help or when I cooked my favorite dish I give then a plate.I think I can do more and I pray to God for help me because I want to be a better example of God’s love to my neighbors.

    • Amy Lively says:

      Sometimes those “I think I can do more” feelings are the Holy Spirit’s nudge. Don’t feel guilty, just pray about what you might do then don’t hesitate to do it. I read that if we hesitate more than 6 seconds to take the first step toward a new idea, we won’t do it.

  19. I have the best neighborhood and greatest friends living nearby. We are truly blessed to be able to walk down the street for coffee and playdates!

    • Amy Lively says:

      That’s a GIFT! I used to live near so many friends, then moved to a city where my friends were spread all over the place. I’ll take neighbors nearby any day!

  20. Marissa says:

    We’ve tried to build a rapport with our neighbors – we’ve lent out our trailer, pulled them out of the mud with our tractor, and brought over vegetable starts and produce from our garden. But still, we are more friendly than friends. At the very least, I was hoping to foster a spirit of cooperation, but even that seems impossible. Right now, a number of them are trying to force us into a Home Owners Association! Apparently, the light covenants and existing Road Users Association are not enough for them. They want to make sure no one has “junk” on their lot, or lives in a mobile home, or raises hogs, or rides dirt bikes, and on and on and on. (This is a very rural subdivision with one road and eleven lots, the smallest of which is five acres. Odds are, you could break every single rule, and no one would even know, much less be bothered by it! Plus, we have neighbors just outside the subdivision that do all this and more.) How does a person get so proud? More importantly, how do you appeal to them? I have had no luck convincing them that this is both illegal and immoral. All they care about is power. And am I terrible for suddenly wanting piglets?

    • Amy Lively says:

      Wow, sounds like you’ve got some tension in the country! Don’t be discouraged that your efforts haven’t shown the fruit you expected. Neighboring takes time, patience and perseverance. If this plan is truly illegal, it will die a natural death without any help from you. Instead of being an outspoken opponent, you can be an instrument of peace. Your neighbors fear losing the peace and quiet they’ve worked so hard to create. Perhaps you can suggest they have a forum for one-on-one discussion when these matters arise, instead of broad sweeping legislation before there are even any issues. Remember, a soft answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1), and answering before listening is both stupid and rude (Proverbs 18:13 MSG). You can be an example of humility and grace, no matter how they respond.

      • Marissa says:

        Thank you so much for your encouragement and please forgive my frustrations. No doubt the Lord has been patient with me; and I will be patient with them. But I do find them hard to understand. Why would they move to the country and try to turn it into suburbia? But then again, it is hilarious to watch them weed the alfalfa out of their “lawns” :)

        • Amy Lively says:

          No forgiveness necessary, sometimes we just need to talk things through. You can create a culture of neighborliness, starting with you! Let me know how it goes. Alfalfa and all!

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