Love Your Neighbor
November 17, 2022 | Rob Bloss
I remember evenings playing in the front yard with the kids next door or down the street while my folks sat on the front porch visiting with neighbors who were friends we knew and loved. But today, in our culture of 24/7 scheduled-to-the-max living, most of us only give our neighbors a wave or a howdy as we pull out of or into our driveways each day.
How well do you know your neighbors? We’ve lived in our neighborhood a mere 8 months and have work to do, and we’re not alone. The Pew Research Center found that roughly 33% of Americans claim they have never interacted with their neighbors. A mere 20% say that they spend any amount of time with them on a regular basis. A third claim they did not know the names of any of the people living around them. That’s a significant decline from four decades ago, when a third of Americans hung out with their neighbors at least twice a week.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, Jesus taught that our neighbor is anyone in our proximity with whom we can share God’s love. We are called not only to love those who are like us or with whom we are comfortable, but all whom God places in our path.
These days, we in the church tend to focus most on loving people at a distance. That’s what we did when we collected and sent a record 670 boxes to a boy or girl somewhere around the world through Operation Christmas Child. We gave with the hope and the prayer that Christ’s love might break forth from each box and make an eternal difference in the lives of those who opened them! That’s worth celebrating!
But is it any different for those who are near enough to see, and touch, and genuinely know? For the people whose paths we cross on a regular basis we have the opportunity to pray and act with that same passion and selfless giving. The fact is, everyone needs Christ’s love—the child living in physical and spiritual poverty somewhere in world, you and me, and our friends, relatives, co-workers and neighbors.
We love people by genuinely seeking what is best for them. Loving others does not mean agreeing with everything they say or do, nor does it mean acting only in ways that gain their approval. Loving our neighbors means attending to their needs—both physical and spiritual. We love our neighbors when we, like the Samaritan in Jesus’ parable, have compassion for them and help meet their needs as we are able. We love our neighbors, including our neighbors who seem like enemies to us, when we act toward them with a heart that first loves God.
Loving our neighbor is our incarnational ministry. It’s love in the flesh. It means knowing and being known. It’s the long game, and generally, it takes time and effort and sacrifice. But we love our neighbors from the overflow of God’s lavish love for us and as a way of demonstrating our love toward God.
In Foundations 401, I walk through a simple five-step plan for actively loving our neighbors well.
Step 1: Become AWARE of the people that God has placed all around you
Step 2: Commit them to PRAYER
Step 3: Show you CARE
Step 4: Be ready to SHARE
Step 5: Be willing to go ANYWHERE
Foundations 401 is being offered for the first time this coming Sunday at 12:30pm. But whether you can make it or not, and I hope you can, there is still a small but significant step we can all take this holiday season in preparation for the celebration of Christ’s arrival and in anticipation of his return: Let’s get to know our neighbors and commit to pray for them.
On the first Sunday of Advent, November 27, we will be inviting you to write down 3 people that you will pray for and relationally pursue this holiday season. On Saturday, December 3 from 9:00 to 10:00am we are planning to host Prayer Walks in seven different locations throughout the area so we can cover our neighbors in prayer and consecrate ourselves to being instruments of Christ’s love. Throughout the holiday season, we’ll be sharing some simple ideas about how we can build relationships with our neighbors and then look for opportunities to invite them to come to one of our special Christmas@fellowship services on December 23 at 7:00pm or December 24 at 3:30pm.
“Connecting withward with the body builds Christlike maturity and displays the love of God to the world.” Those are the aspirational words on the banner in our auditorium. Let’s lean in and love our neighbors as ourselves.