In November, a group of approximately fourteen people meet for an afternoon to participate in a forum called the Neighbors’ Table. What is the Neighbors’ Table? Well, as one of the participants described, a Neighbors’ Table is a forum that teaches and encourages its participants to learn and then live out the Biblical principle of loving your neighbor (people from other cultures and backgrounds). The forum was arranged to include not just lecture-type lessons. Additional time was given to include group conversation, personal reflection and prayer in addition to participating in an activity that involved meeting, eating and talking with our neighbors.
The forum started with the group’s leader Josh Prather reading the afternoon’s foundational text, the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). At the beginning of the forum, Josh posed a question: What could life look like if we were living the way that God called us to be with loving each other? Josh and his counterpart, Eyasu Zegeye, provided insights to the participants focusing on six key principles from the text and gave the participants opportunities to engage in a group discussion, reflection and prayer about the lessons that were just learned.
- Principle 1: We love because we are loved (Luke 10:27) — Before we move toward our neighbor, we must cling to the One who moved toward us first.
- Principle 2: Sinful people create broken communities (Luke 10:30) — Think of sin as pollution; pollution fosters evil within our communities.
- Principle 3: Love across cultural divides (Luke 10:33) — We are transported from the world of darkness to light in order to be light to the rest of the world.
- Principle 4: See, have compassion and move towards neighbors (Luke 10:33) — We need to see people where they are hurt and be moved with compassion towards them and not back way from them.
- Principle 5: Sacrifice to care for whole people. (Luke 10:34) — If it is painful to serve, then that is the moment we are realizing that we are serving to the best of our ability and not out of our excess of our abundance.
- Principle 6: Walk alongside neighbors in relationship (Luke 10:35) — I’m with you (our neighbor) and I’m not going anywhere.
These six principles are just the beginning of the journey to learning to live in a lifestyle of loving your neighbor as yourself. As we look out across our city, we pray that God would awaken our hearts to see those living among us.
To help participants grow in this vision, we then joined together with Native American brothers and sisters to listen, mourn, pray, and consider how we may better love one another as we see Jesus more clearly through the display of the Body of Christ through each nation, tribe and tongue.
To love well we must listen, and we must welcome hearing the history and experiences of our neighbors in their own words. Many of us have only heard a single-sided telling of history, including the founding of our country and its development. Some may look at issues in our nation today and perhaps wonder where such hostility and disunity arose. As we listen, as we posture ourselves as loving servants and learners, we will find that the dominant stories within cultures often diminish and dehumanize those in the minority, at times even displacing them from the annuls of history.
In this process, time and time again, faith becomes co-opted for the sake of earthly gain and power. Yet as people of the Kingdom of God we mourn the dehumanizing effects of sin and live to join Christ in his reconciling and restoring work throughout creation. As contributors of this gathering remarked, “No nation is on a moral high ground.” Only Christ is Savior, and only He breaks down division and brings peace. “To have peace, is to have peace with God, and that is for everyone.”
- The Native American nations among us have much to offer. Stewardship, based on understanding that the world was created good, is centrally reflected in care of the land and environment, as well as in appreciation for and knowledge of the inherent healing properties God designed therein.
- A robust view of history serves to help separate Christianity from nationalism, and traditional culture challenges the perception that poverty is based on materialism.
- A deep sense of respect for “life, elders, family, everyone” grounds community in love for others. “God put respect in our societies – to forgo it is to ignore order.”
The Native American nations “offer something unique to the world.” As neighbors, we are invited to “just be, experience and appreciate.”
If you are looking for more resources to continue this journey, please consider the following books:
- An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
- A Gospel Primer for Christians by Milton Vincent
- Salvation Belongs to Our God: Celebrating the Bible’s Central Story by Christopher J. H. Wright
- Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin by Cornelius Plantinga Jr
God be with you.