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Sometimes its really hard to interact with our neighbours . This is primarily the case in the west due to our hectic work demands, overloaded family schedules, and so forth.
Yet Christ commands us to love our neighbours. (See Mark 12:30). Surely this should be a priority to all of us, yet we truly often find it hard to prioritize our neighbours. Could it be because we do not subscribe to the great commandment? The entirety of this commands says:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this; “Love your neighbour as yourself”. There is no commandment greater than these. Mark 12: 30-31
I must admit, that its easier to love God than my neighbour. This is because loving God is something that I can do on my own time and in my own way. It doesn’t depend on anyone else, and if I am doing a bad job who can really tell. Loving my neighbour however is interactive. It takes effort, and I am measured by someone else, who may not even be a believer. Yet God says its just as important as loving him.
So how can we truly love our neighbour? A few thoughts lie in the teaching of the apostle Paul.
First, we have to truly have a passion for the lost. Paul was consumed with reaching those around him.
He somehow seemed to have gotten past the fears many may associate with reaching their neighbour. He indicates in 2 Corinthians 5:11 Since then we know what it is to fear the Lord we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God and I hope it is also plain to your conscience
To know the fear of the Lord, is to be aware of the wrath of God, and its implications for those who don’t know God. In today’s permissive and politically correct world, pastors hesitate to speak of the judgement of God. Yet Paul didn’t shy away from this. He was aware of it, taught about it (see Romans 1), and he allowed it to be a motivating factor in propelling him to prioritize those who are lost. The Bible teaches we have all offended God, and his wrath, which is the impact of his anger is justly due, except for Christ who intervened. God’s wrath didn’t just evaporate because Jesus interceded for us. But Christ in dying on the cross absorbed this wrath. He became the object of Gods wrath, and in dying on the cross, met the conditions that satisfied God’s anger. (Isaiah 53). This truth was real, and clear to Paul. He wanted to sing it from the rooftops and let everyone know the good news; that eternity in hell can be avoided. We ought to have the same attitude as that of Paul. It takes divine revelation to open our eyes to the wrath that we have suffered, and the danger that our family and friends are into. We need to ask God to open the eyes of our spiritual heart, and that we would be inflamed by God (and Paul’s ) passion for the lost neighbour.
Secondly, loving our neighbor means we have to be experts at building bridges. The apostle Paul, was such a bridge builder, as seen in 1 Corinthians 9: 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.
Becoming all things, is about building platforms for relationships with people. Most people do not come to Christ devoid of relationships. That is, its not simply the preacher in church, or evangelist on the radio that touches their heart. More often than not, its because of depth of love shown to them by someone they are already in relationship with. A mother praying for an erring son, a friend who has been lovingly sharing the gospel, or a neighbour being a light in the past few years are all typical instances of the relational foundation requisite for a response to the gospel. Thus Paul’s desire was to build a relational bridge with as many as he could, with the hopes that as he accommodates to their context, culture and personality. He felt that by being a friend, he can win them to Christ.
Like Paul, we can also be bridge builders, this could mean being socially flexibility in order to connect with a neighbour or a co -worker, or finding points of commonality and areas of interest that can be further developed. It also means staying away from conflictive issues that could divide you and your neighbour.
For example if your neighbour feels christians are intolerant, then it would be best to focus on your friendship, and quietly pray for their eyes to be open, rather than dwell extensively on things that divide you two, trusting that God will open a door of evangelism.
Being a good neighbour is ultimately a heart commitment that we make, that will be worked out as we choose to love the lost like Christ did, overcome our fears and commit to loving relationships with those we have been placed in their lives.
– Pastor Olu Jegede