Tag Archives: Neighbors

“Who Are My Neighbors?”

Matthew 22:37-39 “Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38This is the first and greatest commandment.39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

This raises two questions – we’re going to look at the 2nd question now and the first question later in the month.

The 2nd question – Jesus says to love your neighbor as yourself.    Who is my neighbor?

Well, for me, it’s obviously Randy and Angela to the west and Renault and Tedra to the east.    But that’s the easiest answer.    And I don’t believe that even scratches the surface of what Jesus means.

When Jesus says love your neighbor as yourself, do you think he is only referring to the people who live right next to you?   I don’t.

Is He referring to the family down the street where he lost his job?

Is He referring to the guy in line behind you at Starbucks?

Is He referring to the homeless downtown Grand Rapids (insert the big city closest to you?)

Is He referring to the politicians who are littering the airways with baseless accusations against each other in a hopeless effort to get you to think they are the “right one for the job?”

Is He referring to the children at the local public school who, without the Friday afternoon back pack club, wouldn’t get enough to eat over the weekend?

Is He referring to the children in foster care?

Is He referring to the orphans in Haiti, Ethiopia, Uganda, Liberia and all over the world?

Is He referring to those with Ebola?    Those who are fighting Ebola?

Is He referring to the refugees in Iraq and Syria?   To the brutal militants who are murdering so many and making so many others in to refugees? 

Is He referring to the person sitting next to you at church – the one who might be feeling lost.    The one who had a really hard week and needs some encouragement?

The answer to all of those questions is a resounding

YES!

In this instant communications world, we can find out things almost real time.    There has been more than one time where I’ve found out things that are happening in Haiti before many people there have.

But that brings with it a couple of challenges for the church……

  • Obviously, one church can not solve the entire world’s problems, so a church needs wisdom to discern where they are going to use the resources that God has given them.
  • A church can’t use the “head in the sand” system of avoidance.    We can’t sit back and ignore emergency situations that happen around the world.    Even when a  church has chosen where to use their resources, they need to be open to emergency needs and respond to those above and beyond their planned assistance.    The earthquake in Haiti, the tsunamis, the Ebola outbreak, the crisis for Christians in Iraq, hurricane relief – all examples of the type of assistance where our neighbors around the world need help and they need it now.
  • Immunity – no, not an immunity idol that will help you survive, but we all need to work towards not being immune to the needs of others.    Don’t tune out the problems on the other side of the world.    Don’t tune out the problems on the other side of town.    Respond where you can, pray where you can not respond and impact the situation.  

The reality is that in today’s world, our neighbors are everywhere and anywhere.    That can be overwhelming and can lead a church to say, “It’s too big, there are too many problems, we can’t fix them all.”

God isn’t asking one church to solve all of the problems, but He is asking every church to look beyond themselves and to love their neighbors.

Wherever they are.

However they can.

It’s that cup of cold water thing.   Smile

Tom

What Should Your Neighbors Think?

So, last time, we talked about what do your neighbors think.    What does your life, your family, your priorities tell them about church?

Now let’s talk a bit about what your neighbors should think.    What would make Jesus happy to have your neighbors thinking about you and thinking about your church

I think the first  thing they should think or actually know is that you don’t have it all together.    You don’t have the perfect life, you don’t have it all together, you don’t have all of the answers.   You struggle, you have problems, you’re a real person with real flaws.    It is counter productive to try to pretend that everything is “perfect” when we all know it isn’t.

After that, they should know that even though you don’t have all of the answers, shoot you don’t even have half of the answers to life’s struggles, you have something different.  You have the final answer and the answer that makes all of the difference.    You have a personal relationship with the one who matters.   You have a personal relationship with Jesus as the one who makes all of the “stuff” that we deal with every day eventually go away.

I have often used the analogy comparing our lives to WWII after D-Day.   We knew the end result.   We knew that we were going to defeat the evil of Nazi Germany.    But we knew that there was a LOT of pain, a LOT of suffering and a LOT of death and dying between the two – between when we knew and when it was actually over.

This world is kind of like that.   We know the final answer.   We know that Jesus has ultimately defeated Satan and that ultimately evil will be banished and good will triumph.    But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be a lot of pain and suffering in between now and then.    There will be a lot.

But since we know the final answer, we can face struggles and the trials of life with a different outlook.   Even though we don’t know the answers, we know the One who knows the answers.

That gives us a sense of peace and a sense of confidence that will, if lived transparently enough, make your neighbors say,  “I want what he’s got.”    “I want to not lay awake at night worrying about losing my job.”    “I want to have the peace that comes even when things are tough.”

That’s when our neighbors become more open to hearing words about our church.   Words about our one hope.   Words about why we have “something different.”

Oh, and the next time you see your neighbor, ask yourself – does he look like me?   Nope.     Everyone is different and everyone has different struggles and different challenges.    Many times, people have been hurt by the church because they are “different” and because of that difference, they felt excluded.    Jesus ate dinner with tax collectors and prostitutes.    If He did that, surely we can welcome people wearing jeans and people who have tattoos.  

Or people who disagree with us about politics.

Or people who have lifestyles that don’t match ours.

Or even people who work for the IRS.    Smile

God’s Church would be better for it.   People would be blessed by it.

And I dare say that you’d be blessed by it too.    Try it some time.

Tom

What Do Your Neighbors Think?

So, what do your neighbors think about church?    Do you know?   Have you ever talked to them about church?

What do your neighbors think about your church?   Do you know?  Did you know that what they think about your church, they learn it by watching you.

By watching how you treat your children.

By watching how you treat the neighbor’s dog who got away and whether you help them catch him or not.

By watching how your kids behave.

By seeing what’s important to you.

By seeing how you respond when the ref at your son’s football game obviously blows the call.

By seeing how you respond when someone needs help.

By how you respond when you interact with someone who isn’t the same as you are.   One of our former neighbors had their grandson living with them for a while.   He would often come over and “hang out” with my kids (I guess 13 year olds don’t play, they hang out).    One time when he was over, he was talking about his Grandma and Grandpa and mentioned that he had 4 step dads.

Think about it.   In the last 13 years, he’s gone through having 5 male role models (dad and step dads) and none of them have stayed around.   How does someone with that sort of a history react to someone talking about God “The Father?”   How would the kids at your church react if someone came in to their Sunday school class and said that?   How would your church school teachers react?

The Bible teaches us that we are not “of this world.”    We shouldn’t care what the world thinks of us.    But at the same time, we should. 

We should care what the world thinks of us  because we should care about whether they can see Jesus through us.

Does the world look at the church and see a group of sinners who have said, “I’ve sinned, I’m far from what God wants me to be, but I know God loves me and He can and does love you too?”

Or do they see a group of people who are acting the part but aren’t really showing the true love of Jesus through how they live?

We’ll look at what they should see in the next post.

In the mean time, ask yourself, “What does my life tell my neighbors about the church?”

More to come……

Tom