It’s here! Christmas time is among us (Though for many of you it began as soon as your Jack-o-lantern went out). I really love this season, not simply for all the cold air and the smell of cinnamon that seemingly is everywhere (how does that even happen?). I love it because it’s a season of caring, at least for me it always has been. Christmas has never been a specific day for me. My family was in Wisconsin so we would celebrate several Christmas days, but what I learned is that Christmas is so much more than the day (or about a creepy man who reverse robs you), it was about giving back. Reaching out and being intentional with others. I really love giving gifts, not big expensive and crazy things, simply things that are meaningful. Last year though, my mom executed this perfectly. She gave my dad, sister, my brother-in-law, Danielle, and myself gifts that really spoke to me. They weren’t insane or wild, simply intentional gifts that poured into us. That got me thinking about this Christmas season, and what I want to do this month. I want to talk about intentionality. I want to talk about being purposeful with the people around us, because we are called to love our neighbors.
A couple weeks back I had the chance to go to the Orange Tour when it came to Charlotte. It was fantastic, the main theme being “for our neighbors.” The idea being that the church has become separate from the community, and how that needs to change. The first time someone comes to your church is not when they park in your lot, it’s when they walk down your own driveway. Meaning that we need to be reaching out to our neighbors and in the community in order to fulfill what God calls us to. Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-38, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your mind. This is the first and most important commandment. And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” We are called to love our neighbors, even the ones we think are kind of weird or don’t look like us, we are to love them all as we love ourselves.
It’s time to make new friends.
One of the things that many of us do is that we get complacent. We like our comfort zone and staying in it. This often means we don’t reach out, we choose to not meet more people or people who are different from us. Whether it be because they don’t have the same interests, social status, or opinions we write people off and miss out on the things God wants to teach us. I think it’s time to make new friends. It’s time to become friends with people who might not be believers, people who you might secretly judge, or people who have different political views that you hold. Sound kinda scary? Good! That’s God pushing you to reach out more, to go to the people you don’t always feel complacent around. To make you think differently, see all sides of an opinion. It’s not giving in to the world, it’s opening the door for people to come in and not feel judged. It’s what Jesus did.
Jesus was for his neighbors.
The fun thing about Jesus that many of us forget is, he didn’t have a church he invited people to visit. That’s often the easy way to evangelize, “hey come to my church!” Don’t hear me wrong, you should invite people to come to your local church, but that isn’t where we begin. We have to build a relationship first. It makes me think of the guys who would pass out flyers for their DJ sets at my University. You walked out of class and some guy I’ve never met hands me a flyer and says I should come, then I walk around the corner and throw said flyer away. Why? I don’t really have any investment. Had this person been a friend and was starting to play one of their first gigs, I would absolutely go. The same should be even more true when it comes to being the church. We need to start building relationships.
Your chance to share the gospel starts in your driveway as that neighbor walks their dog past you.
Your chance to share the gospel starts as you make conversation with the barista at your local coffee shop.
Your chance to share the gospel starts with you.
Jesus did ministry by becoming friends with people. He was the one who chose to eat in the homes of tax collectors, prostitutes, and social outcasts. He began a relationship with people that were all around him. People that needed him the most, and it didn’t matter about how he looked in the eyes of the religious, all that mattered was that these people found freedom. We do this by pursuing Christ with everything, and then reaching to the broken people around us. We need to start being for our neighbors.
So, what does this look like? Baby steps (Cue Bill Murray from What about Bob?). We need to start using every opportunity we have to reach out. We need to start making friends that are different from us, so that we can share the gospel and see the world the way God sees it. It starts with the way you speak to others. It starts with the way you encourage the people in your life. It starts with you understanding the heart of God. It starts with you. We are all made in God’s image, different yes, but all children of God. What would happen if we started looking at every one like they were made in the image of God? People like, that super annoying neighbor that has tons of house parties, that coworker that keeps leaving dirty dishes in the sink, that family member you’ve held a grudge at forever; what would happen if we started living for them? What if we joined the party our neighbor held, what if we did the dishes and reached out to our coworker that is so swamped with projects they can barely remember they left dishes, what if you decided to make amends with that family member so that you could repair a deep hurt? We need to start living for our neighbors, we need to love God and love people.
Be like Jesus, be for your neighbor.