Being a Neighbor Part # 3: Sharing the Gospel with Your Neighbor
Do you share the gospel with your neighbor?
This is my final question in the "Being a Neighbor" series. Thanks for keeping up to this point!
It seems like a silly question.
"I'm a Christian. Of course I do," you may be thinking.
And maybe you do. Great news! You're an example to many Christians who do not. In fact, much of my Christian life I've actually shied away from it. I look for ways to serve, show compassion and have a relationship. But, I am gun shy to go further than that.
I would think to myself, "Gee, I don't want to ruin the vibe of our friendship. They may not want to spend time together anymore." All sorts of insecure thoughts and feelings caused me to remain silent instead of giving an honest presentation of the gospel.
This realization hit me after I left my full-time job before our family began raising support full-time for mission service in Japan. I thought about the relationships I had and tried to recount how many times I gave a clear description of Jesus' sacrificial and gruesome death on the cross for the sins of the world - including their's! I struggled to recall many times where I did this.
Sure, I built relationships, established credibility for the gospel and even did good works. But, I didn't share the gospel.
And though I believe all of those aforementioned things to some extent are helpful building blocks to sharing the gospel, that as an end in itself is not sufficient as an ambassador of the gospel.
Now, I will say I still hold back from immediately sharing the gospel in a new relationship if I know there will be continued and consistent interaction with that individual or family over time. I still establish that I am a Christian and the things that I'm passionate about as a believer in Christ. But, unless the opportunity presents itself (which it does sometimes), I work really hard to build a rapport with those around me instead of forcing it in prematurely.
I won't pretend there's a simple science to this. There's still times I am gun shy and end up not sharing the gospel when I should. And then there's other times I am overly zealous and share a bit too early. That is why prayer is critical.
Do you wrestle with this tension?
It should be a tension we all feel. It's not enjoyable, but it's a good diagnostic for your concern or lack there of someone's spiritual state.
Let's return back to the Good Samaritan in Luke. This passage can be found in Luke 10:25-37. I'm utterly amazed at the Samaritan's generosity and selflessness displayed to the downtrodden man. Reflect again on the Samaritan's service to a man that was robbed, stripped naked, beaten and left alone:
"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).
Could you imagine going to this extent for anybody?
What does it require of us?
Are any of us this kind of neighbor?
What holds us back?
So, why this description? Why would Jesus give us what seems like an impossible example to follow?
I believe it points us to something. To Someone...The perfect Neighbor.
This is how Jesus displayed being the perfect Neighbor:
"So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:1-11).
The Good Samaritan wasn't told by Jesus to discourage us. It's to point us to a higher calling. It draws us closer to the standard of holiness He desires of His people - "since it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy'” (1 Peter 1:16).
We've now had several interactions with M-san (see previous two posts for context). The majority of our conversations are the weather, what our activities are for the day, how to improve our gardens, etc. It's through these life exchanges that bricks are added to the relationship and peoples' hearts are softened. It toils up the soil in people's hearts and create an environment of receptivity. By God's grace, I was able to give a clear presentation of the gospel a few weeks ago. She shared how it was a difficult message to understand. I listened and tried to understand why it's difficult. I then shared my own experience of coming to Christ when I was 16. This was after several attempts by my neighbors at that point. M-san ended up coming to church with us this past Sunday and was able to hear, once again, another clear presentation of the gospel. Praise God for His provision and timing. And though she has not made a faith decision, seeds of God's Word have been planted and we intend to work hard in growing our relationship as neighbors and friends.
The message may be rejected.
Many will reject.
But, we must continue to press deeper into people's lives drawing them in from sin, eternal death, separation from Christ and share Jesus with them through good works and faithfully sharing what Jesus did for the world on Calvary.