Most people intuitively understand that being a better neighbor is a good thing to do and would agree that knowing their neighbors' names would be helpful. However, neighboring is far more than just “helpful.”
Neighboring is a movement to reclaim community, keep isolation at bay, bolster public health, stimulate the economy and transform community-based institutions like the church. And the research backs it up.
Times Magazine featured a Brigham Young University study which compiled multiple projects resulting in a dataset of over 3 million people over 30 years. They found, “the feeling of loneliness increases risk of death by 26 percent.”
This number is greater than risks associated with smoking and cancer. The New York Times reports, “Since the 1980’s, the percentage of American adults who say they’re lonely has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent.”
Combined research shows that individuals with less social connection have disrupted sleep patterns, altered immune systems, more inflammation, higher levels of stress, increases risk of heart disease, increase risk of strokes, accelerated cognitive decline and premature death. Yikes!
The neighboring movement began with Jesus. He told us to do it.
I imagine Jesus watching all our church activity and having flashbacks to the scribe from Mark 12. It feels like we, the church, are still asking the question, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” The commands are still the same.
In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus patiently and pointedly repeats: “and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”
This command is so simple, yet church doesn’t feel simple.
Of course, all the church activity around is not inherently bad. In fact, one could argue that it helps the overall good and therefore helps the metaphorical neighbor.