[A post by Catherine Peele, BODY’s new Director of Mobilization]
What is God’s design for your neighborhood? If we are called to neighbor, what are we aiming for? What should our communities look like? Ultimately, the question is, “What is God’s design for our neighborhoods?”
One strong clue is found in Isaiah 65.17-25:
“See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.
Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.
They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands. They will not labor in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with them.
Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.
This city isn’t just experiencing the absence of things like isolation, material need, sickness, and injustice. It’s a place where people live a vibrant and secure life. A place where they can Connect, Celebrate, and Create.
Connect – In a neighborhood functioning according to God’s design, people are closely connected both with one another, and with God. The relationships among people is a source of joy (v. 19), and their relationship with God is also close as evidenced by free and open communication (v. 24).
Celebrate – Healthy neighborhoods celebrate residents’ skills, passions, and stories. Understanding the unique gifts and background each person brings to the table allows neighbors to imagine ways their neighborhood can change for the better.
Create – Finally, the natural outflow of celebrating a community’s assets is the creation of good things within the neighborhood for the benefit of its people (v. 21). Whether it’s something as informal as helping a neighbor with a small task, or as organized as starting a neighborhood club, people will use their skills and talents to address the needs of the community.
Neighborhoods thrive when they function according to God’s design to connect, celebrate, and create. Next time, we’ll tackle the question of what would really happen if we took the first steps to connect with our neighbors.