When overwhelmed by the mission of the church to teach all nations and the great commission given to go and make disciples, Jesus provides us with a witnessing tip to get started.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
It is a simple strategy yet profoundly difficult.
It means to sacrifice our own self-interests for the interest of others. It means to stop absorbing ourselves in our own little world and capture the interest of those living around us – for the sake of the gospel.
Love my neighbor as myself? It’s hard-enough just to know their names.
When it comes to employing outreach strategies, we tend to forget that the best mission is to work the field where God has planted us. Whether a subdivision, apartment building, townhomes, or living on forty acres, we all have neighbors. We wave at them when we drive by their house. We watch their kids grow up from a distance, buy their children’s cookie dough when they knock on our doors, or watch them mow the lawn on a warm summer day.
Neighbors are people Jesus refers to when he asks us to engage the world and proclaim his message.
A simple strategy yet profoundly difficult.
When I view my house as a castle – a private sanctuary to exercise my natural inclination to be left alone to recharge my battery – it is difficult to love my neighbor as myself. I struggle to get past the “good morning” wave because I’m too tired to engage.
If you are like me, I have some good news for us. Jesus forgives us. To love our neighbor as ourselves needs a clean heart, a renewed spirit, and a refurbished zeal. Touched by his grace, filled with the fruits of Christ’s life in us, we can take that first step out of our comfort zones and be who God desires us to be – a good neighbor for the sake of the gospel.
I would like to offer the following suggestions to help us do that:
Be visible by taking slow meandering walks throughout your neighborhood. Pray for the houses that you walk by. And whenever you see a person, stop and chat with them. Introduce yourself and get to know their name. Be bold by asking how you can pray for them and their family. [I am discovering how powerful this walk can be.]
Be vulnerable and not worry about making a good impression or try to be somebody you are not. By remaining in Christ, your neighbors will see Christ through you. And that’s okay!
Be discerning in all your words and actions because your neighbors are watching. They observe you leaving for church on a Sunday morning and when you return. They watch how you interact with your spouse and children. Let’s not give our neighbors excuses to reject hearing the Truth when they see us behaving like a hypocrite.
Be gospel intentional. Keep your eyes and ears open to all opportunities that God provides. Be a first responder when people need help. Be that person in your neighborhood for people to go to when they have a spiritual question.
The Bible tells us to always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have in Christ to anybody who asks. (1 Peter 3:15)
Anybody who asks? Isn’t that interesting.
It seems that part of being an evangelist for Christ is not necessarily pulling on sleeves to gain an audience but be willing to provide an answer when somebody tugs on our sleeve to ask a question.
That is a different dynamic.
Loving our neighbor as ourselves places ourselves into positions to have our sleeve tugged to answer a question. And that can start by getting to know the names of our neighbors and allowing them to know us.
Loving our neighbor as ourselves doesn’t stop at being a light for Christ but taking that next step to verbally reveal the source of that Light.
Loving our neighbor as ourselves means daily reminding ourselves to be gospel intentional throughout the day.
Love for Christ prompts us to be willing messengers and good neighbors. And God takes that willingness and provides us with opportunities to convey the reasons for the hope we have in Christ.
And that’s how believers reach the world with the Good News. It starts with our neighbor.