Love My Neighbor? - Sure, but how?
"And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:39 (NIV)).
Who among us does not know this second part of the "Great Commandment"? It is certainly one thing to know it and another to do it, isn't it? Come to think of it, how many times have I been taught or trained on how to love God (the first part of the Great Commandment)? Teaching and training on the second part seem harder to come by - at least for me.
That is why I spoke a few weeks ago on "How to Love our Neighbor." Especially when we don't know them well, I have found living this command very hard. I know I ought to do it, but all too frequently I don't find it easy, convenient or even obvious as to what to do. Hence, I put together a resource on just how we might do it in our Muldoon community.
Among the ideas I gave were:
1. Frequent one or more of the restaurants in Muldoon.
2. Do your shopping in the area.
3. Come hang out at the school or park.
a. We have been invited just to be in the school building.
b. Frequently there are things we can help staff and kids with - even a smile
c. Help with our GraceWorks partnership
I. Park Parties on Thursday from 6:30-8:30 pm (food, fun, and friends)
ii. Park Connections week days from 1-4 pm (play games, provide snacks)
4. Prayer walk the neighborhood
Frankly, I have found that I may need to make several contacts before the true engagement starts. I want it to start right away, but when a stranger knocks at my door or says hi in the store, I am far from ready to share my life. Why should others be any different. But, when the connection does come, it is such a blessing! I have new friends, folks on my prayer list and a better understanding of needs and how I can love now that I have invested my time.
Not only did I need to just get out and get started, I needed to consider how I loved as well as who. I have found that we need to be ACCEPTing in the way we reach out (and to be accepted ourselves). Try this out; be:
Accessible - be there; show up; hang out; be available.
Curious - Ask questions; let them do the talking; people love to talk about themselves (including ourselves, but this is a time to listen. Ask, ask again, ask more.
Caring - Look into the eyes of those you engage. Notice what concerns them, what excites them, what fears, hurts, and loves they have. Empathize.
Patient (and Persevering) - The first time may not be easy, you may not be welcomed, and you may feel you failed. But keep on. It took me 6 times to make one connection. It is now sweet and I have been extended trust because I kept on. Jesus keeps knocking at the door of our hearts. We should do the same for our neighbors.
Expectant - Pray before you go. Ask for openings. Ask for the Holy Spirit to guide you. Ask for the ability to make it about them and Jesus, not you. Then expect an answer.
Tolerant - this may seem odd, but frankly, in a hurting community and in hurting people, we will hear things we disagree with, don't like and find uncomfortable. But Jesus calls us to love nonetheless. Noe of us had to clean up to come to Jesus. We were accepted as we are (and Jesus then changed us and is still changing us). Let us do likewise and trust God to reveal what needs to change in due time.
Last, I will encourage you not to feel you need to try this alone. Jesus sent out disciples 2x2, Paul always took at least one companion, and we were put in a body to encourage and help one another live into our calling as followers of Jesus. It is always easier with a friend - add the Holy Spirit of God, and we now have a cord of 3 strands.
As you go out and seek to show Christ's love to our community, I hope you sense God's blessing. If you have yet to try, can I urge you to make it a point to do so in July. If you need a friend, call me. I would love to walk with you on this part of our calling - to love our neighbors as ourselves.
God bless you one and all,