Updated: Oct 28, 2021
A couple years ago our family said goodbye to our next-door neighbors, and soon after, welcomed new ones. When new people move next-door, all the questions start formulating in your head. “What will they be like? Will they like kids? Will they have kids? Will they murder me? Will they think I’m a total nerd when they see me stretching in my bike spandex at 5 in the morning?” These are perfectly normal (except for the spandex) questions to ask yourself. However, the more hopeful questions that arise may be harder to entertain. “Will we be friends? Will we actually spend time together? Will our kids write their names in fresh cement as this permanent symbol of love?”
Well, It’s been a couple years now and we love our neighbors. We have enjoyed tons of movie nights, hilarious game nights, and have had hundreds of conversations just standing outside. Looking back at our friendship, not only am I thankful for the time we have had with them but I have realized lately that we have done something that marks true friendship: We’ve confused a ton of people. Now you may be wondering how confusing other people is a mark of true friendship. Let me explain.
There used to be this planter that divided our properties. It was full of sharp thorn bushes that our kids would have to strategically maneuver around to not get hurt. So, we eventually filled in that planter with cement, stretched sun-shades from their house to ours, and filled the in-between space with chairs, and bikes, outdoor heaters, and a movie screen. What we essentially did was erase the property line.
Sadly, our neighbors are joining the mass exodus out of California. They are moving early next month. As our neighbors house went up for sale, people flooded in and out to view their home. As we spied like ninjas through the blinds to see what kinds of people might become our new neighbors, something happened every single time someone came to look at the house. Every person or family looked up at the sun-shades, looked at our chairs, and took up a look of confusion. Some even sought out the actual property line to figure out what would be theirs and what would b ours.
In an individualistic culture like ours, this shouldn’t surprise us. Many studies have shown that after the invention of the iPhone and streaming services, the increase in people isolating from the world has shot up rapidly. With these things in mind, it makes sense why all these people were confused. They wanted to know what would be theirs.
This is not a new phenomenon though. Although ancient communities were far more personable, in the first century there was a massive divide that existed in this world. For centuries people tried to build towers to get to heaven, tried to do “good things” to make God happy, etc. Driven by a love for those that would isolate because they were outcasts, as well as a love for those enslaved to sin, God took on a body to cross the divide between heaven and earth.
In Ephesians 1:7-10, the Apostle Paul is listing the ridiculously kind benefits we have received because of Jesus crossing his “property line.” As you read this passage, marvel at the benefits but I want you to pay specific attention to the very last phrase in verse 10. Paul writes, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”
That last phrase, “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and on earth” is a summary statement of the Lord who created all things bringing, what we broke by our sin, back together. What love!? He didn’t look down in confusion while shaking his head in disappointment at what we broke. No, in love he put on a body, lived the life we should have lived, died the death we deserved, and took his life back up so that he could offer life to all those who would follow him. God loves this world and has torn down all walls and property lines that would keep us from him.
A beautiful, yet confusing result of such love is supposed to be displayed by the church. Later in Ephesians 2:11-16 Paul makes absolutely clear that the walls and hostility that existed between Jews and non-Jews was decimated through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Paul is arguing that the divide between heaven and earth has been knocked down but so has the relational walls that exist between people. And in Jesus, specifically his death, he made peace (Eph. 2:14).
We are really sad about our neighbors leaving because we really do love them. We will miss the laughter, the kids “window talks,” and the everyday joy of having someone to talk to right next door. Our prayers have been full of gratitude to God for them and the time we had with them, but our eyes cannot help but gaze at the one who has given all of Himself to unite all things in heaven and on earth to Himself…confused house-hunters and all.