Most of us do not realize the importance of having good relations with our neighbours until some crisis happens at home where we need assistance urgently.
You’ve heard about the comment that we’re all different, just like the length and thickness of our fingers are all different. But our fingers still get along very well with each other. And so it is that if we stop to think about it, life is nothing but a series of relationships with everyone, and it is in the know-how of managing these relationships that will determine the quality of our lives.
In this story (extracted from his 2015 church message), Rev. Lim Kim Hock recounts his experience with neighbours and how he grew up realizing its importance which he thence put into practice in his early years in Singapore.
Today, when you visit him and his wife, Persis, at their home, you will find them to be very warm and hospitable both to their guests as well as neighbours.
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This year’s theme is “Love Your Neighbour”. Let us consider how we can practice it together as a church.
I’m sure most, if not all of us, are aware of the importance of loving our neighbours. However, like the man in Luke 10 who asked: Who is my neighbour? many actually struggled with loving certain neighbours.
Have you come across this poem?
For me, to love the whole world is no chore; my only problem is my neighbour next door.
I still remember growing up with warnings from my parents not to mix with certain neighbours lest I grow up learning bad habits or joining gangsters. I think many need to break free of prejudices due to backgrounds (educational, financial or religious), race, nationality or culture.
Who are our neighbours?
Living in Singapore taught me that we can be exposed to many kinds of neighbours. Sometimes, our neighbours change from time to time. During those days when we lived in a transitional rental flat, our neighbours were Thais, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Burmese, Chinese and Indian nationals. After we moved into our own HDB flat, our neighours were Singaporeans (Chinese and Malay) and Malaysians. As time went by, we also have neighbours who came from China and India.
When we selected our flat, we decided on one that is midway along the corridor, so that most of our neighbours will have to pass by our flat to get to theirs. When we moved in, or when others moved in, we invited ourselves to their homes and invited them to ours. We had decided from the very beginning to be good neighbours instead of merely wishing for good neighbours.
Our neighbours are not limited to those who stay around us. They are those whom we meet regularly or even occasionally on our way to work, study or recreation. They could be those whom we meet at the courtyard, lift, car park or food courts. They could be people of the same race, nationality, or of a different peoples group. They may share the same interest or common spaces with us. They are our neighbours so long as we meet or come across each other.
To be sure, our neighbours also included the foreign students, workers and families, whom God has brought to the shores of Singapore.
How do we love our neighbours?
We start by not avoiding those who cross our paths. A smile, a word of greeting or a wave of the hand will communicate that we are neighbours. We need to be on the lookout for those we pass by and hardly noticed. It helps if we show kindness instead of aloofness. We must never discriminate or despise anyone we meet.
The parable of the good Samaritan is a good reminder for me personally, that I could easily decide to be like the priest or the Levi, not to be involved, especially if it entails inconvenience or difficulty. This should never be! I should never be too busy for people, especially those in need.
Coming back to loving our neighbours, we need to pray for them after identifying who they are. We also need to pray for ourselves that God will give us a heart of compassion and free us from any negative prejudices towards them.
Next, we reach out to them. Get to know them. Spend time with them. Invite them for a meal, to our homes, or to join in activities and festivities. I remembered that we invited a few of our neighbours to church when we celebrated our 25th Anniversary at Queenstown Lutheran Church in 2011.
As a church, we should take every opportunity to invite foreign students and colleagues to join in our church activities. Our Sunday School can invite children and families for picnics or kids’ camps. Our Care Groups are well placed to invite foreign nationals to our homes. Let the church be a caring community to the needy and those who are away from their home country.
Remember that we are to love, not in words or speech, but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:18).
∼ Rev. Lim Kim Hock
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