(Learn about my star system here.)
It was a Sunday morning and my mom, aunt, and I were headed to the store. We loved Jesus, but we weren’t regular church-goers at the time. Halfway there, we got a flat tire.
Now, we were capable of taking care of it ourselves. My mom and aunt had probably changed over a dozen flat tires over the years. But when a young family in a minivan pulled over to help us, we were relieved. The husband got out to change our tire while the wife stayed close to the vehicle to keep an eye on the kids. As we handed over our jack, he said, “We were on our way to church, but we figured God would forgive us for being late if it meant helping you.”
That has always stuck with me. I want to be that person who’s willing to put aside my “religious duties” in order to love people the way Jesus wants me to. I want to love my neighbor the same way that family loved us–sacrificially and honestly, with a willingness to talk about Jesus and an ability to behave like a normal human being.
That’s what Amy Lively’s book, How to Love Your Neighborhood Without Being Weird, is all about. I’m not sure why I chose this book for a review, especially since Amy says “I should warn you that you’re on the hook now that you’ve read this book. You have no excuse for not loving your neighbor” (pg. 191).
Amy takes Jesus’ command to love your neighbors quite literally. As someone who’s started and sustained a successful neighborhood ministry, she’s excited to share her tips and reasons for reaching out to the people who live next door and across the street.
Not only am I an introvert who treasures my quiet time and space, I just get really uncomfortable around people I don’t know. Meeting someone new is a draining experience, one that I tend to avoid. When you live in an apartment building, sometimes it seems easier to NOT know your neighbors. Sometimes you’d rather not have them know that you know what types of noises they’re making that keep you up all night. Sometimes you just want to pound on the ceiling at three in the morning because they just won’t shut up. It’s a lot harder to do that when you have a personal relationship. And if you have that personal relationship, you probably won’t feel comfortable complaining about that noise at all. At least not if you live in Minnesota, where “Minnesota nice” replaces the Golden Rule.
Anyway, I’d rather just not know my neighbors. But last time I went to the grocery store down the street, I realized something: nearly every time I go there, the family in line in front of me is using some type of government food voucher. That says something about the area we live in–there are a lot of needs, and a lot of ways my husband and I could can bless our neighbors and bring Jesus to our city.
Easier said than done, though, right?
Lively offers some great reasons to reach out to your neighbors and backs them up with spot-on scripture passages that challenged my thinking. She also provided a TON of practical tips for meeting, getting to now, and blessing the people who live near you. And if you check out her website (Ioveyourneighbor.com), you can get great resources including adorable invitations, tips, and planning sheets–all available as free downloads.
While I didn’t like how much this book made me squirm (this stuff is SO outside my comfort zone. Like, I’m Minnesota and this stuff is China), I don’t have many complaints about the book. I did struggle with the organization a bit–the content seemed to jump back and forth, but it didn’t keep me from getting some great ideas.
I’d recommend How to Love Your Neighbor to anyone who needs a little push to get to know the people around them. It’d be a great read for a women’s small group. The discussion questions at the end of each chapter would spur on some great conversations.
I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are my own and were not influenced by the publisher or author.