Neighbor relationships are complex, plain and simple. The interactions between neighbors are an important factor to feeling comfortable and supported in our homes. They can be a blessing and bring us joy, or, let’s be honest, they can be a burden. But if we live by biblical principles, we know that God cares about those in our inner circles, including those in our neighborhoods.
Scripture tells us that “It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor” or to “plot harm against your neighbor, who lives trustfully near you” (Prov. 14:21; 3:29). The commandments tell us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matt. 22:37-40). God cares deeply about these relationships, so let’s cover some essential areas of common-sense manners and ways to be courteous and loving while shining the light of Jesus in our neighborhoods.
7 WAYS TO BE JOY-FULL NEIGHBORS
In the hustle and bustle of life—running errands, going to work, and taking the kids to practice—remember that simple, quick greetings go a long way toward keeping the neighborhood a friendly one where we greet each other, wave, and exchange simple pleasantries. A quick chat about the weather, sports teams, or family life is a wonderful way to stay connected. Also, making time for quality time together, whether a summer iced tea on a porch, a spring luncheon, or a holiday get-together, is lovely if possible. And, of course, all these social events become open opportunities to share the love of Jesus! What better way to share the “joy of our salvation!”
2. Resolving Tension
If you find you have a problematic neighbor, remain cordial if possible and keep the peace (providing there are no safety issues) and wave when you can. Even sharing a dozen or two of your most prized cookies during the holiday season may melt the icy feelings that sometimes happen between neighbors. Remembering the Spanish proverb lightheartedly, “The belly rules the mind.” But should any tension exist, pray for your neighbor and that relationship, and never underestimate the power of a kind, loving gesture.
“Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Heb. 13:16). Whether a new baby, surgery, a simple repair, or difficult circumstances, step in with a “Can I help with anything?” text or gesture. When my husband was deployed for almost a year to the Middle East during the War on Terror, many neighbors helped with lawn care, running errands, and more. We now reciprocate those kind gestures whenever we can. Of course, you will not get to everything, but doing something goes a long way. And if you are on the receiving end, a simple thank-you note (which I highly recommend) is, of course, a perfectly wonderful etiquette practice. At a minimum, a heartfelt “Thank you” makes for a kind exchange.
Whether it be a surplus of vegetables, a terrific recipe, a discounted item at the local nursery, or a miter saw, share your surplus or great find tips! This is a great, tangible way to love others. Also, these small interactions may allow God to open the doors and lines of communication to share about your faith, especially if an already established relationship exists.
5. Being Courteous with Noise
Whether with barking dogs, graduation parties, or other gatherings, be mindful of your neighbors. Occasional large gatherings outside the normal noise levels are fine, and who doesn’t love the sound of children playing, but ask yourself, “Would this sound bother me once or over and over again?” Answering honestly is the best gauge to avoid noise pollution and possibly pollution of the relationships around you. Remain mindful always of Matt. 7:12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” We are aiming to be a light to those around us.
6. Being Courteous with Space
Nothing more notoriously introduces tension to neighbors than property lines and space intrusion. Living on a 1000-acre farm probably has its own set of challenges, but in suburbia and not-quite-suburbia, property lines are lightning rods for tension and tend to produce arguments. I had a wise pastor share a story about an argument with a neighbor who thought he was intruding on their property line. It escalated as the weeks passed, and the pastor never engaged in arguing, instead, they committed to praying about the situation. Shortly after that, the neighbor apologized and began building a relationship.
Now, not every case ends with such a fairy-tale ending, but my takeaway was instead the importance of praying and trusting in God. Is there any other better way to spearhead a difficult neighbor situation? Trusting that God shows you step by step when to speak and intervene and when to stay quiet is not easy, for sure! But knowing God’s great care about these relationships must always remain at the forefront of our minds. Aiming to be a well-mannered neighbor should be a delight, not a burden.
7. Looking Out for Each Other
We live in tumultuous times, with covid, the economy, and more all causing life to feel heavier. Look out for each other’s homes, text each other if a package remains on the front porch, and notify each other of anything questionable. Having each other’s back is the most neighborly gesture, builds trust, and is the best foundation for being a light to those around you.
So, embrace the journey of being neighborly, and be mindful of what a good, courteous neighbor is. Try to keep in the forefront of your mind this insightful quote: “All will concede that to have good neighbors, we must also be good neighbors. That applies in every field of human endeavor.” – Harry S. Truman