E-pistle January 21

Like a Good Neighbor

God knew what he was doing when he had Joanne move in next door to us. Joanne is as compulsive about snow shoveling as I am and that is a good thing since we share a driveway in our townhouse development.

Joanne is also an earlier riser, as I am, so most snowy mornings we are up early clearing our common asphalt. Sad to say, we have shared more conversation over our snow shovels than at any other time of the year. Other than when it snows, we mostly wave “good morning” or “how you doin?” on those rare occasions when we leave or arrive at home at the same time. We’re suburban Americans, after all.

So our driveway is usually one of the earliest cleared on Golf Club Drive, and, frankly, one of the nicest done. And on those mornings when, for whatever reason, Becky or I or Joanne aren’t up so early, the other neighbor just goes ahead and does the whole driveway.  Isn’t that what neighbors are supposed to do? Apparently not.

It still surprises me after every storm how some of our neighbors are “my side only” neighbors.  Drive through Windy Bush mid-morning after we’ve had a few inches of snow and you’ll see who are the “my side only” neighbors. Exactly one half of the driveway is cleared and the other half a sloppy mess. Or even my 48% cleared and your 48% cleared and a 4% band of unshoveled snow right down the middle of the driveway like some sort of demilitarized zone.

Because I don’t usually go into the office on Fridays, I sleep a little later than normal. This morning Joanne had 90% of the driveway cleared by 6:30 when I came out, shovel in hand, to do my share. I felt a little guilty. But I felt a little thankful, too; thankful that we don’t have a “my side only” neighbor. We have a good neighbor.

Theologians talk about something called common grace. Common grace is God’s goodness poured out lavishly on all humanity – rain and snow in their season, the joy of human love and eyes to see the beauty of soaring mountains and ears to hear the songs of bubbling brooks. Common grace is not saving grace, the grace we meet in Jesus Christ, but it is a very good thing.

Good neighbors come in all sorts of sizes, shapes, colors and creeds.  They are a grace-filled gift and unfortunately not always so common.

Christians, of course, are called in particular to share the good news of the saving grace of God in how they live and what they do; the words they speak and the actions they take. That’s what mission is all about and that’s why we’re all called to the mission field wherever it may be. But Jesus also liked the idea of us just being good neighbors, means of common grace. He said simply being a good neighbor can be like being a city on hill that can’t be hid or lamp on a lampstand that you’d never place under a bushel. The simple act of being a good neighbor casts a little light in a dark world. And who knows, it might in God’s time cause someone to get to know the uncommon grace given in Jesus Christ. (Matthew 5:14-16)

I’m pretty good about being a good neighbor when it comes to shoveling snow. But there are too many time in too many other ways that I can be one of those “my side only” folks. Lord, teach me to be a good neighbor all the time and in every situation.

See you Sunday