Moments of rejection stay with us, don’t they?
I will never forget the time that I made cookies and took them over to my new neighbor.
It happened on a Saturday, not long after they had moved in. I noticed that my new neighbors were having a garage sale – and I thought it would be the perfect time to go over and introduce myself and welcome them to the neighborhood.
So, I quickly baked some cookies, arranged them on a disposable plate, and walked over to their home.
But, just as I was walking across the yard, my neighbor’s phone rang. She answered and started talking. So, I walked around, holding the plate of cookies, looking at the various objects for sale lined up on her driveway.
Now, I understand that the timing was bad. But she could have smiled or made an “I will get back with you later” gesture – or anything.
Instead, with her phone pressed to her ear, she took the plate of cookies out of my hands, and without a smile or even a nod, she turned around, marched into her house and slammed the door shut.
I do not know what was going on in my neighbor’s life at that moment. But, I do know that she saw me coming and decided that she had no time or emotional energy left to develop a new friendship.
I understand, because I have often felt this way myself.
We live in a “closed-garage-door” culture. Many of us struggle to get to know our neighbors.
We live in neighborhoods where people prefer to drive into their garages, close the garage door, and engage in virtual relationships and entertainment rather than real, face-to-face relationships.
We are just too busy to develop relationships with the people around us, especially people who have different beliefs, interests, or backgrounds from us.
Extending friendship is too messy. Too awkward. It might cost us money. It will cost us time. We might get rejected. And, it’s dangerous. (Horror of horrors, what if I invite my neighbors to dinner and they say a swear word in front of my kids? I must protect my kids!)
So, we go out into our communities to buy groceries, visit the library, and go to church. Then, we come home, drive into our garages, and with the press of a button close our garage doors.
It’s so clean, so comfortable, so freeing to be able to do this!
I get to choose how to use my time. I can protect my family from all influences other than my own. It doesn’t cost me anything.
And, if my conscience ever pricks me about “witnessing”, I can always put a flyer in my neighbor’s mailbox about an upcoming missions conference at church. Done and done. Duty fulfilled.
The only problem is that driving my car into my garage and closing my garage door isn’t what Jesus Christ has called me to do. And, it’s not what He has called you to do, either.
Instead, Jesus set for us an example of mingling with people. Jesus invited people to spend time with him and readily accepted their invitations to spend time with them – even when it meant going to parties with “sinners” and “tax collectors”.
He looked for opportunities to talk to people, even when it was awkward (i.e., the woman at the well).
He gladly spent time with children and welcomed them to interrupt His busy schedule.
Even when He was exhausted, sad, and physically overwhelmed, He still saw people and loved them. Jesus always made time for people.
Jesus looked at people with eyes of compassion and cared for their never-dying souls.
And, Jesus has called us to do the same. He has called us to “go out”.
So, how can we reach out and build relationships in a closed-garage-door culture?
We need to be intentionally looking for avenues to build relationships with our neighbors. This means looking for them in the places where they are already hanging out. It means opening our homes and lives to them. Some ideas might be:
- Organizing a neighborhood garage sale
- Hosting a holiday cookie exchange
- Inviting neighbors over for a back-yard-barbecue or a chili cook off
- Helping a neighbor with yard work or a house project
- Going to those sporting events – and talking to people!
- Offering to teach piano lessons, cooking lessons, extra soccer practice, or craft time for neighborhood kids
- Talking to the other mom at the park
- Noticing the store clerk’s name – and addressing her by name each time you shop
- Being willing to watch a neighbor’s home or pets while they are on vacation
- Welcoming your neighbors’ kids to use your trampoline or slip-and-slide
- Offering to babysit if an emergency ever comes up
- Volunteering to coach a community sport or help with a community event
- Teaching your kids to welcome neighborhood kids – even if they are different ages or come from different backgrounds
We need to be available to further develop these relationships – to get to know our neighbors by name, talk to them, ask them how they are doing, share our lives with them, grieve with them when they are sad and rejoice with them when they are doing well. When our neighbors respond by inviting us into their homes and into their lives, we need to be willing to go.
Yes, relationships will cost us. They will cost us time and money and effort. Relationships with people who are not exactly like us might “contaminate” our kids with different viewpoints, language, and ideas. They might even set us up for rejection.
But then again, these same relationships might give us a chance to share our faith with our neighbors.
And, just imagine the joy of seeing a neighbor come to faith in Jesus Christ because we weren’t afraid to invest a little time in a relationship.
I think that would be worth any “sacrifice”, don’t you?
How about you? Have you found some great ways to build relationships in your neighborhood? I would love to hear your ideas. Please scroll down to comment.
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