Several Oak Cliff congregations are participating in BODY’s Fall Neighboring Initiative. Dr. Brent McDougal, pastor of Cliff Temple, has been preaching on the topic. This post is used with Brent’t permission from his column in Cliff Notes, Cliff Temple’s newsletter.]
We’re focusing the next several weeks on the call to love our neighbors and how to build genuine relationships with people right outside our doors. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he responded by saying, “The greatest commandment is this: Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And the second greatest commandment is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27; Matthew 22:27; Mark 12:30) It’s like it because when your heart is truly ﬁlled with love for God and God’s love for you, you’re going to also love your neighbor; and when you love your neighbor, you’ll also be showing your love for God.
If everyone took this teaching on its face, and every day sought to practice these two things ‐ loving God with everything you have, and loving your actual neighbors ‐ then how would the world be diﬀerent?
“Who is my neighbor?” That was the question that the lawyer asked Jesus before he told the story of the Good Samaritan. Often the teaching of that story is understood to be, “Everyone is my neighbor,” whether it’s my friend or the person on the side of the road. If someone is in need, they are my neighbor. So, that means the people across town, at the courthouse, even in a country far from home. Everybody’s my neighbor. But if we think we’re neighbors with everyone, we often end up being a neighbor to no one.
When Jesus told people to love their neighbor, he wasn’t speaking in the abstract. He was talking about the people nearest to you. Real people with real names ‐ those are your neighbors. And Jesus says in words that are completely clear: you’re called to love your neighbor as yourself.
So, for the next several weeks, get speciﬁc. (Remember the line from a few sermons ago. Nothing becomes dynamic until it becomes speciﬁc. In other words, nothing takes on life or has real meaning until it becomes a speciﬁc action.) In worship this past Sunday, we gave out refrigerator magnets to help you get to know the eight next neighbors nearest your home, on your block, or in your building. We asked the congregation to ﬁnd out 1) the names of their neighbors, 2) one fact about them (job, interest, etc.), and 3) one “deeper” fact about them (a hope, a dream, a fear, etc.). This involves doing something speciﬁc to learn about your neighbors. Knock on their door and introduce yourself. Invite someone to share a meal. Try to be present when others are walking or working in the neighborhood, looking for ways to have a conversation. Don’t go after the hopes, dreams, and fears immediately; remember that those things are shared as a gift, and trust takes time to develop.
When you love your neighbor, you’ll be loving God; and when the love of the Father is truly in you, you’ll want to love your neighbors. I look forward to hearing your stories about connecting with your neighbors.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
‐ Dr. Brent McDougal