Open Doors Spiritual Matters: Commit to seeking the peace and prosperity of our neighbours

Rev. Ruth Bartlett of Calvary Baptist Church on Main Street writes this edition of Open Doors Spiritual Matters.


As I sit down to write this column I’m trying to think of what’s important for us to be ponder at this time and in this season, but my mind is elsewhere.

In just a few hours, I’ll be hopping on a plane to be reunited with some dear friends who used to live in the GTA, but now live in the United States.

The mature, adult part of me, is so happy for both of them. One is working in social work and just coming off maternity leave with her second child, and the other, whose recent marriage we’re gathering to celebrate, is working together with her husband to get an entrepreneurial venture off the ground.

However, the immature, selfish, part of me wants them to move back home so we can all be next door neighbours and live happily ever after, together forever.

Do you have any friends like that? Or maybe feel that way about members of your family? Living in our bustling city of Toronto, we often have a very transient community.

We go to university and make friends, only to disperse to different parts of Ontario and the world when our studies are done.

We settle down into a neighbourhood, getting to know others through playdates, going for coffee, chatting over the fence or in the hall with the neighbours we are beside… but then, for one reason or another, they leave, find a new home, and make new neighbours, leaving us behind.

Or maybe we’re the ones who leave, and have to find new friends!

It can be hard to invest in friendships with people in the neighbourhood where we live when so many people are coming and going from our lives.

It’s tiring to put ourselves out there, and make friends, only to then have to do it all over again with new neighbours.

In the Old Testament, the people of God were “carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon”. They were in enemy territory, but God told them to move into the neighbourhood and make the most of it:
“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters… seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”(Jeremiah 29:4-7)

The people of God desperately hoped that Babylon would not be their home for long, and that they would soon return to Jerusalem, but God created us for community, no matter the length of time we are in one place or another.

Putting down roots and settling into the place where we are is so important to our flourishing and the flourishing of one another.

So even if we still miss our long-time friends living in another place, even if the people we meet aren’t around forever, let’s commit to seeking the peace and prosperity of our neighbours for the time that we’re here.

— Rev. Ruth Bartlett is the minister at Calvary Baptist Church, 72 Main St.

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