“You cannot love neighbor unless you have physical proximity to neighbor.”
Lawndale in Chicago is one of the most difficult neighborhoods in our entire nation. I visited there recently with Christ-followers who felt called to this neighborhood and have lived there for thirty years. They worship in a renovated car dealership building where Al Capone once sold Cadillacs. Lawndale is also “infamous” as the neighborhood where in the 1960s Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife moved to fight an incredibly corrupt housing market rigged to keep people of color from owning homes. While visiting I heard of a professor who moved his family into Lawndale….
Dr. Gregory Lee
Dr. Lee and his wife Jeannette probably could teach/work/live at any university/neighborhood they so choose. Dr. Lee is a magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University and holds a PhD from Duke. Jeannette is an attorney. They moved into Lawndale with their two small children, Jeremy Sung Gi and Audrey Sung Hee.
When Dr. Lee arrived at Chicago’s suburban Wheaton College in 2011, he never heard of Lawndale, and wasn’t very interested in social justice. Four years later, this assistant professor of theology gave a chapel message in remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr.
“You cannot love neighbor unless you have physical proximity to neighbor.” Dr. Lee said.
His recent book (on Hebrews – our fall study!) employs N.T. theology and church history to show how the book of Hebrews interprets scripture as God’s voice for today. Dr. Lee admonishes us to read St. Augustine and John Chrysostom who were ministering to a very diverse culture (much like ours).
I am not even a pale ghost of a Christian in comparison to Gregory and Jeannette Lee. But I have heard and seen through them the call of Jesus Christ to “preach Good News to the poor – to bound up the broken hearted – to proclaim liberty to the captives” (Isaiah 61) And so I felt God’s leading to apartment 77 – Forest Hills – across from the church. It is a refugee neighborhood and I am honored/ privileged and love living there. Currently being with these folk (many are Christians) means walking through the neighborhood with a group of children following me back to 77 for popsicles. And I get to help distribute food with St. Matthews Catholic Church and worship and pray with a Chin cell group every Saturday evening!
This is the neighborhood God has called me to as a pastor of Albemarle Road Presbyterian Church. It is next door! Yet our church serves many neighborhoods – some are very affluent. I encourage you – wherever you are – get to know your neighbors so that you can love them more deeply. And I ask for your help so that our church family can get to know better our immediate neighborhoods while making them our neighborhood along with the other one in which we live. After all, as John Wesley said:” The world is our parish!”