Mark 12:30-31 (NIV) 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 neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.
We see them almost everyday, wave hello or goodbye at them as we enter or leave our driveways. Sometimes their children and ours play together and attend each other’s birthday parties. Yet, how many of us remember to pray for them or have shared the gospel, or are willing to be there to support them in a time need? When it comes to neighbors, we are to take the bible literally when it says to love our neighbors, as we love ourselves and our own. This may be a challenge for some of us or perhaps we have never viewed this as being important but aren’t we to be the “salt and light” wherever God plants us? I have the privilege of being a part of a neighborhood bible study and evangelism group started by some good friends of mine and I want to share with you, a testimony, they shared with our group. It is an excerpt from “Old Testament Template” by Landa Cope which can be viewed on http://templateinstitute.com/old-testament-template-chapter-18/. May this stir in us a desire to be salt and light, sharing the love of Christ in our neighborhoods.
The Kingdom Is Within You
Jesus reduces all of the law into two sentences that capture the whole: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’This deeply personal summation embodies God’s strategy. We are to be the Kingdom. We are to live the Kingdom. The salt and light of our lives, whether we lead or serve, will “salt and light” the earth with the knowledge of God. You and I are God’s strategy. Discipleship, or learning to apply God’s thinking to our daily lives, is God’s focus. As I began to realize this personally, I longed to live in a “neighborhood” to understand how this worked itself out practically. I had discipled students and leaders in their professions for years, and I would continue, but what did the neighbor mandate look like? Was I in danger of knowing God’s message, but missing His strategy?
I bought a home in the southern part of the U.S.A. on a street of 14 houses. I chose a multi-ethnic street because God loves the nations. I got a little house because I am single and travel extensively. God is a good steward of resources. I began to work on my yard, neglected for at least a decade, because God loves beauty and we are to value the material things He gives us. In the first weeks, my neighbors would watch me as they worked in their yards. I would wave and keep on trimming, raking, hauling. After a time, some started to come by when they saw me out working. They would say how nice the house looked and ask my name. We’d talk gardening for a few minutes and they’d be gone. Jesus is interested in what we are interested in and has given plants to us to steward. I would go in the house and write their names down so I would remember, because God knows our names. After more time our “yard conversations” would get past the weather and the trees to what I do. Finding out I was a missionary didn’t lead to much discussion because it was so foreign to them, but we continued to get to know each other through the things we had in common: houses, yards, plants, neighborhood safety, etc.
As I worked on my home, I prayed for my neighbors, their families, our neighborhood. About six months after I moved in, one neighbor made a beeline for me one morning. He said, “My wife’s sister just died. Please pray for her.” Within a week the husband next door saw me in my yard and made a direct path to me and said, “My wife said her job is more important than me and I’m afraid I’m going to lose her. Please pray.” I was astounded. We had never spoken of prayer. We had hardly said anything about God. They knew I was in ministry overseas, but we had not shared any details. Where did this desire for God in me come from, this trust with the most intimate pain in their lives? I can only believe it was the testimony of my yard work and neighborly concern. They saw Jesus in the care of the yard, house, the desire to know and remember each of their names, the willingness to be “one of them” first, the shared concern for all of our homes, families and safety. They saw Jesus in my life and they wanted more of Him in their crisis.
What a wonderful testimony of practical Christianity at work!! I hope it will encourage us to be more aware of our neighbors, stir us to pray for them and to show concern for them and their families. Let us be willing and continually ask God to show us how we can be used to share the light of His Kingdom with those around us.
By Carol-angel Jackson