Working in the Neighbor-Zone

I believe in one God, Creator of the universe. That He governs it by His providence. That He ought to be worshiped. That the most acceptable service we render to Him is doing good to His other children.

That the soul of man is immortal and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its covenant in this.

These I take to be the fundamental principles of all sound religion, and I regard them in whatever sect I meet with them.

– Benjamin Franklin’s Creed

Benjamin Franklin was far from perfect. No mere human is. However, I find the creed by which he lived very inviting. Some might call it neighborly. In Philadelphia, PA, Ben Franklin’s adopted hometown, they call it brotherly. Whenever I’m tempted to discredit someone’s accomplishments because of their mistakes, failures, or sin, I’m reminded of a story in the Bible about a woman caught in adultery.

At dawn he (Jesus) appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

– John 8:2-11 (NIV)

When I’m tempted to judge someone because of their sin, I recall this story. In the back of my mind, I replay the statement Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Whenever I do this, I am unable to throw a stone.

Imagine living and working every day with this humble perspective. Let’s label it as working in the neighbor-zone. It makes me want to “go and do likewise.” In this context, “work” is not just your occupation, but entails every aspect of your life as a parent, sibling, spouse, friend, colleague, volunteer, and community member.

Jesus was a model worker. He tirelessly worked in the neighbor-zone. He was diligent, but not a workaholic. He knew how to pause, rest, and recharge to live up to the life which God called Him to live. He formed good daily work habits as He went about His Father’s business.

A sure approach to finding out what God wishes us to do is to emulate Jesus by working faithfully and conscientiously at the tasks that fall into our hands, always watching for the guidance that God will surely send our way. We shall never miss God’s call as long as we are on the path of duty in the neighbor-zone.

We may not clearly see where we are being led, but we can be certain that doing our present work as well and as thoroughly as possible is the best training for anything the future may hold for us. We are not above any work that falls in the neighbor-zone, even though it may seem to be useless and unimportant. Over and over, it is remarkable how things which at the time seemed to be of no importance turn out to be useful in shaping our character and purpose. In hindsight, when we reflect on the experience received, unconscious of its value at the moment, proved valuable fertilizer for the Fruit of the Spirit that God wanted to grow in our hearts.

Don’t allow pride, selfishness, or judgementalism to rob you of the joy of working in the neighbor-zone. We are all flawed and sinners, but we are all wired to derive pleasure from our work. When we work in the neighbor-zone, the joy from every job well done will take us into deeper fellowship with our Creator and our neighbors.

Published by Marc Casciani

Won't you help me grow neighborly love?

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