“For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galatians 5:14 NLT)
John MacArthur said: “I don’t want to be successful, I want to be useful.” Those words spoke to me in regard to learning to love my neighbors. I chose not to focus on “success” – i.e. winning every neighbor to Christ, but on “usefulness” – doing what I can with what God has given me. So, I did a personal inventory.
Of course, the excuses came first. “I’m an introvert (I’m scared).” Or “This is Dallas (where I lived at the time), everybody already knows about Jesus or nobody wants to hear about Jesus (they’re not open to hearing about Jesus from me).”
Then I began to hear statistics that as many as 90% of the population of any given city in the U.S. is un-churched, and the light finally came on for me. The Lord gave me a plan to love my literal neighbors, starting with those who were closest. Couple that with something I read recently that said nearly 89% of people who don’t know Jesus, don’t know anyone who does. Let that sink in for a minute. I think of Romans 10:14 (NLT): “But how can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent?” Our being sent isn’t really an issue. Jesus gave us a clear command in Matthew 28:19a: “…GO!” Okay, so what might that look like? Consider the steps I took.
1. Allow the Lord to prepare your heart. What does that mean? For me it meant examining my motives. WHY did I want to make an effort to reach out to my neighbors? Was it simply to gain points with God, to show Him what a great person I am? Or was it to do my part in carrying out His great commission.
Fortunately, God has taught me that He’s pretty smart and I’m not (in comparison 😊); that He’s God and I’m not; that He’s everything and apart from Him I’m nothing. At this point in my life, any effort on my part is to give expression to my gratitude for all He’s done and is doing in and through me. I simply asked the Lord to purify my heart and my intentions so that any recognition would be His and His alone.
2. Once I understood my motives were pure and I sought no personal gain from wanting to love my neighbors, I asked the Lord to give me a vision of what could happen if I trusted Him without reservation. He outlined a means whereby I could pour my life into a few neighbors, who in turn could pour themselves into a few neighbors and so forth until virtually every person in our neighborhood would have exposure to someone who loved them unconditionally, was praying for them, and to whom they could speak about Jesus when they got ready to have that conversation.
3. Start with those who are closest. When we lived in the Dallas, Texas area, for almost a year my wife and I started pouring ourselves into our next-door neighbors, a young couple from India who have now become parents of a handsome little man, and our neighbors across the street, a husband and wife with two children. It’s important that you understand, these precious neighbors were never our “projects.” We had no “agenda” except to love them and serve them in whatever ways the Lord gave us opportunity.
Now that we live in Las Vegas, our strategy has changed a little bit. I’ll share more how in tomorrow’s post.
Blessings, Ed 😊