One of Us

I have a new neighbor. My neighbor is very different from me, and as much as I don’t want to admit it, he makes me uncomfortable…not uncomfortable in a predatory or criminal sense, yet in a sense of I don’t know how to love this neighbor. He seems to be kind and after every conversation, he “blesses my day.” I’ve been informed by a friend of his that he has been struck by lightning, which evidently has made him a little different. I’m annoyed with myself for being annoyed by his presence. He has disrupted my quiet and tidy building with the chaos of stuff and chattiness. There are other characteristics that are causing discomfort, yet if I reveal all of them, you will all see how shallow I am. I know this neighbor is accustomed to strange looks, and has probably lived on the margins most of his life.

Yesterday morning, Tuesday morning of this week, my Advent reading was about Elizabeth and Zechariah. Luke 1:5-17 tells the story of an older, priestly couple, who were barren. They are “walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statues of the Lord.” Elizabeth is old and obviously she and her husband have given up all hope of having their own child. Even though Elizabeth and Zechariah are included in their community, they, especially Elizabeth, has lived most of her life on the margins. She is childless. As readers of her story, we conclude that she and Zechariah are living an unfulfilled life. They are faithfully waiting for God to draw near.

I’ve been thinking the last day and a half about how the kingdom of God is not usually found within the “fulfilled life.” The kingdom of God truly seems to be found among the childless, the incarcerated, the homeless, the jobless, the lonely, the refugee, and the different. I wonder if the kingdom is more visible in the barren life because the barren are still seeking the kingdom since they haven’t been lulled into a complacent life falsely “fulfilled” by all the stuff. I don’t know. I’m mostly just wondering.

I know that my neighbor’s different ways bother me because of me and my insecurities, not because of who I perceive him to be. Our insecurities cause us to be bothered by the homeless, the asylum seeker, the incarcerated, the addict, and the barren. When someone is needy or different, they disturb our personal bubbles because we are afraid that we might become them. If we can keep the pain outside, we think it won’t disturb our fragile existence, yet because we are followers of Jesus, we don’t have the option to keep the pain outside of our walls.

My hope and prayer for all is that we rest in the security of who God made us to be so that our perspective shifts as we love who God is bringing near to us. I believe my new neighbor has something to teach me about the kingdom of God. Do you remember these words from Joan Osborne’s song, “One of Us?”

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Tryin’ to make his way home?


Other Posts You Might Like:

My Christmas Resolution - Dan Cooke

Called to Serve - Bob Bentley

Gratia - Nidia Badillo

Experience - Bob Bentley

Communities in Schools - Laurie Templeton

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