Here is a great post from Ben Stevens at The Gospel Coalition on loving your neighbor by actually loving your neighbors. Novel thought! He says:
When we moved into the complex, we thought a lot about “how hard it is to meet your neighbors.” And when we discussed the idea of a get-together with the few people we knew in our building, they also commented that it is “tough to have community in the suburbs.” But we were all wrong. It is not difficult to get to know your neighbors—it is simply not something most of us value.
The result is a culture of seclusion, and that culture strains our society in a surprising number of ways. Christians stand a better chance of changing the social landscape than anyone else. In fact, this societal problem presents us with the opportunity to confront that most elusive of all evangelical goals: to serve Christ and our neighbors in the surrounding culture at the same time.
He gives some practical suggestions:
1.) Invite everyone. That is, invite a large group of people, either your whole apartment building or your whole block. This will avoid the impression that you want to build a clique. It gives you a much higher chance for success. And it usually just makes the evening much more enjoyable.
2.) Spend money on nice flyers or invitations. For our first get-together, I spent a few hours with InDesign and made full-color flyers that had a picture of a tasteful dinner scene and the words, “We think it’s too bad we’ve never met all our neighbors.” People want to know your intentions, and they like to be invited to nice events. Do them the honor. It makes a difference.
3.) Plan the get together for a Sunday. This is not an absolute, but few people have major commitments on a Sunday at 1:30 p.m., which means more can come and fewer have to rush off. Try to plan ahead by at least three weeks.
4.) Learn how to actively listen before you invite friends and neighbors over. Not only will you not have to prepare “entertainment” for these people, but if you are truly interested in who they are and don’t squash conversation as it happens, the entertainment will take care of itself.
5.) Involve any of the other neighbors you can (potluck, progressive dinner). This helps ensure that they show up, and it also means they will feel more invested. Hopefully it will keep them from thinking you are trying to be some kind of social control freak.
6.) Be transparent about your faith. When we first met with our neighbors, many were excited that we’d taken such a bold step. In that moment, I simply said: “This is something Christians value.” And in that one sentence, I had made my faith known and given all credit for something which the people openly liked about us to Christianity. Plain-spoken honesty is the best, and most effective, way to live with your neighbors.
You cannot love your neighbors if you don’t know them. Get it on the calendar and have fun.
Read the whole thing.