Becoming a Network of Neighborhoods

Last Thursday, I shared a collective dream in Becoming a Tribe of Ecclesiological Gastronauts.  The story there brought up several ideas worth pondering:

  • table fellowship
  • intention versus ulterior motives
  • remembering we are Church
  • a network of neighborhoods

The idea of a network of neighborhoods caught my mind, as it was brought up by Bob in his comment on a previous post.  I will ponder through the other ideas in due course, but I start with a Network of Neighborhoods.

Informing Concepts


Neighborhood: “a number of persons living near one another or in a particular locality”

In answer to a question concerning the neighborly responsibility to love, Jesus tells the story of a presumably Jewish man who has been beaten, robbed, and left in a clump by the side of the road.  Two Jewish religious leaders pass him up, moving to the other side of the road, more concerned with ritual purity than with their injured brother.  Then along comes a Samaritan–mixed race and unclean.  He acts as a neighbor, helping the injured man and providing for any continuing needs (Luke 10:25-37).

Jesus then asks the questioner,

“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”
He said,
The one who showed him mercy.”
And Jesus said to him,
“You go, and do likewise.”

Neighborhoods are relational, not merely local.  We create neighborhoods in all the places where we behave as neighbors.  Each person in a local congregation participates in multiple neighborhoods, for we have the responsibility to love the other, both within the church and with any we meet (Gal. 6:10).  Love is not warm feelings, though these may be present.  Love consists of actions done and attitudes held for the good of the other.  It is considering the other of more significance than ourselves (Phil 2:1-4).  Wherever such love is consistently practiced, we form neighborhoods.

The Value of Ordinary Life

The Old Testament laws are full of instructions telling Israel how to treat the land, their animals, their business transactions, and neighbors: God was concerned about much more than religious rituals.  His call for holiness infused all of life.

Work-, home-, and community-life are life; Jesus’ lordship extends to all these areas.  He redeems whole persons and the Spirit is working to sanctify whole persons.  Therefore, despite all of our “best” efforts to the contrary, no area of life is outside the God compartment.  God cares about our work, our play, and our relationships.

Just as God’s rule and care extend through the whole of life, so also does our vital connection to our Head and to one another.  We are one in Christ whether we are gathered for worship or dispersed for service.  As the Body expands into the community on Monday mornings, the real member-to-member connections are responsibilities remain. (Eph 4:15-16).

Trust in Christ is a lived trust, not an offering brought on Sundays or during daily devotions and Bible reading.  Cooking dinner is part of that lived trust.  So is driving the freeway, checking email, surfing the web, attending meetings, counseling employees, and all the bits of life that take place each day.

The Interconnected Web

John Donne is one of my favorite writers.  I don’t know many of his works, but “Batter my Heart” and “Meditation XVII” never fail to make me think.

I first learned about “Meditation XVII” when I discovered it was the source of the title for Hemingway’s novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. (from wikisource)

Reading the famous paragraph from that meditation as a highschooler gave me the first inkling that life really was not all about me: my decisions and actions affected others, even when I’d no idea of the effect.

Of late, ideas from web theory have shaped how organizations are structured, how relations with nature are understood, how computer systems and software are designed, and much more.  Of course, in reality, this is nothing new, for life was interconnected long before the topic hit the bookshelves of Barnes and Noble.

The idea of perichoresis from trinitarian theology provides some insight.  The interpenetration of the persons in our Creator God is surely reflected, even if minutely, in God’s creation.  The interrelations in nature reveal God’s valuing of interdependence.  Nature is replete with interdependent systems.  Human society is composed of them.  The Church, when it is being the church, lives in them to the glory of God.

Paul’s use of the body metaphor to explain the nature of the Church is an example of church as interconnected web.  Each individual person is connected to the Head and through him to each other person in the Body.  The interconnected web that is the Church strengthens us as we gather and works as we disperse.

Provisional Definitions

  • Neighborhood: a love-formed relational space, usually composed of persons in physical proximity
  • Value of Ordinary Life: the relative worth given to ordinary life by the Creator, Lord, and Deliverer of all, Jesus Christ
  • Interconnected Web: the real, spiritual connection present among members of the Body of Christ by virtue of their necessary connection to the Head

How are these underlying concepts of neighborhood, the value of ordinary life, and the interconnected web embodied in the Network of Neighborhoods?

I’ll ponder this questions is the next several posts in this series.

About Laura

My name is Laura and I am on a journey, pondering the implications of God's glorious design of humanity and integrating every aspects of this design into a description of whole life health.
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  1. Pingback: Dancing in the overlapping neighborhoods - Who in the World Are We?

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