Concerning ‘Neighbor-ology’

If you’re like me – you can often find it really easy to dream about ways of implementing large strategies for social justice or pondering serious ways of ‘saving the world’ and such – but when it gets down to it – you can have a hard time completing the daily tasks that are right in front of you.2805413_f520

It turns out that pondering ‘loving acts’ for ‘all those other people’ is a wonderful way of getting out of actually doing anything for the person standing right in front of you.

This is what can be called ‘neighbor-ology’.[1] The thought of doing good to ‘neighbors in general’ without actually doing anything for the very visible (however odd) individual over your back fence. Neigbor-ology suggests that it is the great injustices that need our attention rather than the particular person who is bagging your groceries at the store.

For those of us who are married, a similar situation arises; we can call it wife-ology or husband-ology. How dreadful it is to dwell upon intangible humans that we can imagine doing ‘great and sacrificial deeds for’ – while all the while failing to see the individual right there in front of us. While the only thing we are called to do at that given moment is to clean the pile of dishes in the sink, or to put down our work and give our ears attentively.

What a dreadful mistake to love ‘humanity’ but fail to love the one person that you are really capable of loving well. Surely, we as Christians are called to attentiveness to the particular people and tasks, rather than the constant effort of trying to accomplish large prospects. Not that we neglect larger purposes in life, but as Jesus says, we do those things, while not leaving the former undone. Love in its truest form is particular and concrete, or we could say, incarnational – rather than abstract and general.

Just think – single acts of kindness to the actual people throughout your day over a lifetime – and you may have actually been kind to all people (or at least most of them). But waiting to do something large for ‘humanity’ is to end up neglecting everyone altogether.


[1] A term used and defined in Water Buffalo Theology by Kosuka Koyama.

Published by Ryan Hayes

Ryan Hayes is a development practitioner, teacher and co-author of his first book of poems, Paralipomenon. Being born in Nairobi, Kenya and living most of his life in Africa, he has a wealth of experience and understanding into the cultural and linguistic factors of South-East Africa. Ryan is happily married to Justine with whom they have begotten three beautiful girls – Amelie, Lily and Rylee. He is a lifelong learner and devoted student of Jesus, mysticism, quantum physics and the human psyche.

2 thoughts on “Concerning ‘Neighbor-ology’

  1. Ryan and Justine, Had a wonderful two visits with Wallace and Mary Kamau this week. Such delightful people. They shared at church and at the Bible College this week. Your names came up with admiration and respect several times. Great thoughts to ponder and live out. Blessings….Mike Schrage

    1. Thank you for those kind words Uncle Mike. Glad to hear you got to spend some time with the Kamaus. They are wonderful people indeed.
      Much appreciation,
      Ryan

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