On faith: Neighborliness comes to rescueHow can I find – and be – a gracious neighbor? The importance of finding and being such a neighbor struck me anew this past week.
By: Pastor Susan Berge, Knife River Lutheran Church, Lake County News Chronicle
I had an experience the other day that led me to think about big life questions and Martin Luther.
Luther, in the 16th Century, lived with a big life question that burned within him: How can I find a gracious God? His search for that answer ended up shaping the history of the Christian Church and even the world. It has been suggested by some that our 21st century struggles with a different question, namely: How can I find – and be – a gracious neighbor?
The importance of finding and being such a neighbor struck me anew this past week. In what must be make my personal list of my top-five most embarrassing experiences ever, I locked myself out of our new home in Duluth on an early Monday morning, with my husband away at a conference in another community.
In bathrobe and slippers, I stood outside my securely locked house and thought, “Any ideas, Lord?” At that moment, a middle-aged couple walked past on their way to the bus stop at the end of my road. Concluding this was God’s answer to prayer, I approached these folks and was extremely fortunate to discover what so many of us need: a gracious neighbor. An hour later, I was back in my house, with a broken window that would need to be repaired and a thankful heart for the kindness of a neighbor.
Several thoughts come to mind as I ponder the question: How can I find – and be – a gracious neighbor? It would have been easy for the couple passing by my house to ignore my need. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus leads us to the conclusion that anyone in need is our neighbor.
The generosity many of us show when a calamity of some kind happens to those in our community, or even around the world, is a great example of living out Jesus’ definition of neighbor.
On the other hand, there are all kinds of examples of a lack of neighborliness in our world, whether within our own neighborhoods or around the world.
The political polarization within our country that we have already begun to experience in advance of the 2012 elections stands in direct contrast to a neighborly spirit, as our society indulges in behavior that is anything but civil, kind, and gracious. The tone of our culture in such instances reminds me of how easily we humans can become hostile and adversarial. Whether it’s an issue of the school board or the city council, the state government, or the national government, passions tend to run high, especially in times like our own, where economic challenges add to overall difficulties.
It is indeed a scary world when we abandon neighborliness in favor of suspicion, fear, prejudice, and greed. There are so many examples of the great good that come when we act as neighbor to others, and so many examples of the great evil that comes when we do not. In a world that grows increasingly closer through media coverage and internet connections, yet increasingly diverse in terms of ethnicity, beliefs, and disparity in material means, we must certainly focus on what it means to find – and be – a gracious neighbor.
Luther found his gracious God through spiritual wrestling and the study of Scripture. Perhaps, for Christ’s sake and the sake of those around us, we might do the same to learn about being the gracious neighbor for another.
Pastor Susan Berge serves at Knife River Lutheran Church and lives in Duluth. She is very careful about locking and unlocking doors these days.