It may seem that a conversation about neighboring would begin with thinking about how to engage with and learn to love our neighbors. But the truth is that any conversation about neighboring has to begin with you and me. You see the only way for us to effectively become the kind of people who “love our neighbors as ourselves” is if we first begin by shifting our own way of thinking.
In the world of anthropology the word “culture” is defined as “the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.” (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/culture?s=t) Culture is the collection of all the things we do – the way that we live as a people. Nations have cultures. States and cities have cultures. And families have cultures. We are influenced by and contribute to the cultures that we are a part of. So if we are going to learn what it means to love our neighbors then we have to begin by redefining our culture.
John 1:14 (MSG) says, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” Matthew 1:23 (NIV) says, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).” The story of Jesus is the story of God reaching out and stepping into our human culture. It is the story of God drawing close and interrupting our culture and entering into a place of relationship with us. And it was within the context of this relationship that Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God and of a new culture – a culture that we as His followers are invited to participate in.
In Matthew 28:19-20 as Jesus prepares to return to God the Father, He gives a mission to all of those who follow Him. He urges each one of His followers, both then and now, to step fully into the culture around us and to demonstrate, through relationship, the way to entering into the new culture of the Kingdom of God. And, as ever, He promises that His name is still Immanuel and He is still with us.