We Missed Something
Even at that young age, his words penetrated and stuck. Decades later, I remember the scene and his words vividly.
“Your family needs to practice what you preach.”
I stood stunned. I was 10-years-old and as we stood in the street, his words made me feel so ashamed. They still do.
He was right.
We lived in a neighborhood with families and lots of kids, lots of playing, and yes, some fights, too. My six siblings and I, and the neighborhood kids, were always outside. But, like other neighborhoods, not everyone was included. On our block there was an understanding that some certain kids we kept at a distance.
My parents cautioned us from playing often with children they thought may influence us in a bad way. We stayed away and pushed them away as well.
So, there we were, a Christian family excluding others on the block, shrouding them out of our lives. I cannot remember if my mom was friends with any of the other moms. But the neighbors were friends with each other. Sometimes, I remember, it was our family that was excluded. I stopped by one house where some of parents were hanging out, in community, drinking wine and smoking cigarettes. My parents, unsurprisingly, were not present. We didn’t do that.
Where we were present, every Sunday, was in church. Indeed, all nine of us piled into the van each Sunday, sometimes in matching clothes. And, each Sunday night and Wednesday night we made our way again. My parents were committed to the church and were raising us to be there, too.
But, somewhere along the line, we missed something. Somewhere between my parent’s protection and our confident church attendance, we missed our neighbors. We were not seeing them the way God saw them. We did not invite them for dinner. We did not reach out to them with baked cookies. We did not mow their lawn when they went on vacation or even engage in much conversation. Our interest in them was to avoid them.
We were so busy being Christian that I think we lost sight of the people God had placed right around us.
Last month, my childhood neighbor passed away. He died of cancer. I haven’t seen him in decades. When I heard the news, my thoughts raced back to the conversation in the street that day. That conversation stays with me.
On our block, in our faith, love for others was missing. I don’t think we genuinely loved our neighbors.
That is sin.
Matthew 22:37-40 (NLT)
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”