Dear First Pres,
Last Sunday we talked about the greatest commandment: love God and love your neighbor. The main thing I wanted you to know in that sermon was that the only way for us to live out this command is by putting our faith in Jesus. It’s not by just trying harder. Trying harder is not the good news of God’s Kingdom. When we put our faith in Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are given a new heart. We are transformed. And as we work out that salvation and grow in faith, we are empowered to love God and love our neighbors. Praise God! The more we understand and receive God’s love for us in the Gospel, the more we are freed up to love Him back and share His love with others. Why is that important? Because it changes the living out of this command from life-sucking religious duty to life-giving grateful obedience.
Still, notice, it requires obedience. And even as it is life-giving, grateful obedience, it still costs something to love God and love our neighbors.
So, how do we live it out? A few years ago, I read a great little book called Neighborhood Initiative and the Love of God by Lynn Cory. Lynn is from southern California and has visited Fresno several times to meet with pastors and church leaders who are working to truly love their neighbors (especially those who live right around them). In the book, (which has a lot of great tips for loving people in our neighborhoods) he talked about a challenge that made a significant impact in his life. The challenge was to adopt eight homes in our neighborhood, learn the names of the people who live there, pray specifically and consistently for those neighbors, humbly and faithfully work to build a loving relationship with them, and see how God might lead you to serve them and show them His love.
Can you imagine if all of us took on that same challenge? Again, not just with a sense of life-sucking religious duty, but in life-giving grateful obedience - trusting in Jesus rather than ourselves to lead us in loving our neighbors well - can you imagine? When we choose to love our neighbors with that kind of intentionality, by God’s grace, His Kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven. I pray the Lord is stirring afresh in your heart about the people who live right around you.
But I also pray that the Lord is stirring about the people who are different from you. Maybe you live in one of our refreshingly diverse neighborhoods, but many of us live in neighborhoods that aren’t particularly diverse ethnically, culturally, or socio-economically. What does it mean, particularly in this season, for us to love our neighbors who are different from us? I humbly suggest that it, at least, means trying to understand their experiences, their stories, and their perspectives. Of course, that happens best through authentic relationships. So, one of the things I’m praying for is that the Lord would help us build mutual authentic relationships with our neighbors in our city, particularly those who are different from us, so that, by His grace, we might share His great love. Would you join me in that prayer?
May the Lord fill us with His love so that it would overflow in our thoughts, words, and deeds toward our neighbors.
P.S. Now that our county has remained in the red tier or substantial risk level for COVID-19, we are planning to move to Level 4 ministry soon. Yahoo! Please pay attention to our website and your email for updates in the coming weeks.