Do you pray for your neighbor and seek opportunities to share Jesus with them?
Here is the first of three questions I'd like to ask you in my 3-part blog series "Being a Neighbor".
I'd like to explore in God's Word what it could look like to be a neighbor in your context. I will describe how this could look in parallel to three separate interactions I've had with our neighbor in the last month here in Japan. In Luke 10, Jesus does a masterful job depicting the Good Samaritan as the ideal neighbor in contrast to what often times is our perspective - being the self-absorbed lawyer. Let's give some context.
"And who is my neighbor?"
If you are not familiar with the biblical passage this question comes from, you can find it in Luke 10:25-37. This is from the famous parable titled "The Good Samaritan".
A lawyer asks Jesus the question, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (10:25). Jesus challenged him to reflect on the Law and tell it back to Him himself. The lawyer correctly recites, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself" (10:27). Jesus affirms his response. Yet, notice the lawyer's response:
"But he [the lawyer], desiring to justify himself said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" (10:29).
You can almost here the sideways tone in his questioning. The key to interpreting the lawyer's intent behind the question is found in the same verse. Luke begins, "But he, desiring to justify himself..." The lawyer's blatant insincerity is revealed to the reader immediately. He wasn't seriously asking who his literal neighbor was. He was actually seeing who he can be a non-neighbor too? A more crass way to ask this question is, "Do I have to be a neighbor to everyone?" Let's see Jesus' response.
Jesus shares a parable about a Good Samaritan who is one of three people who sees a man that was robbed, stripped naked, beaten and left alone. The Good Samaritan's response is described this way:
"But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back'" (10:33-35).
There's tons of cultural, socioeconomic and religious points Jesus intentionally draws out in this parable. But I want to return to my original question:
"Do you pray for your neighbor and seek opportunities to share Jesus with them?"
Let me preface what I am about to share by saying "your neighbor" is not limited to those that live to the left and right of you. It includes those individuals/families, but by and large it addresses our relationship with all of man, especially those we have already established relationships. Think in terms of:
consistent faces you encounter (i.e. drive-thru's, barber, mailman, etc).
Here's an encounter I had with my neighbor.
It was a morning Lindsay had her language lesson, so I had some extra time to read, pray and have a slower start to my day. I prayed specifically for my neighbor, M-san. I asked God to give us an opportunity to build a redemptive relationship with her. Our family has had several conversations with her and she had constantly displayed hospitality toward our family as the newcomers into the community. How awesome would it be that God would plant us right where we live to build a relationship and share Jesus with this lady and her family?
Shortly after I finished praying, M-san was passing by in her yard (next to our side yard and visible through our fence). Our screen door allowed me to shout a quick "おはようございます" ("Good morning!") As usual, she had a piece of fruit to share with our family. Immediately we were in conversation about Japanese culture and how Japanese value the practice of gift giving (more on that in part 2 of this series). One thing led to another and I was able to clearly share the reason for our family moving to Japan. I was able to explicitly share the gospel with her as well. Wow! Talk about answered prayer. More on M-san in part 2.
But, it left me thinking...
Did I do this with those I knew around me in my community in Lynchburg?
Did I pray for "my neighbor", whoever that may be?
Did I seek (not force) an opportunity to share Jesus whether by word or deed?
Actually it's when I didn't pray that I would force.
Why all of a sudden now that I have a missionary hat do I become so much more intentional?
Do you bring your relationships before the Lord in prayer?
Missionary or not, the command we see Jesus finish with in this passage applies to all of us as Christians:
"You go, and do likewise" (10:37).
In other words, do as the Samaritan did.
It's not a matter of "targeting" people with the end goal of sharing Jesus. Rather, it's looking at the relationships God has placed around us and sincerely asking the question "Who can I be a loving neighbor to?"
This question is the opposite of what the lawyer asked.
So, Christian, who can you be a loving neighbor to? Do you pray for them?
Live your life with them joyfully sharing Jesus. Stay tuned for what happened in my next interaction with M-san.