When it comes to influencing others there is one group that seems so complicated and uncomfortable, our neighbors. These are the people that surround our lives but aren’t necessarily in them unless we invite them in. As busy people who have full plates, it takes a ton of intentionality to create the kind of space needed for us to genuinely engage in the lives of those we casually come in contact with. I think we would all agree that loving our neighbor might not be a priority on our lists.
A typical top 5-priority list might look something like this:
What does your list look like? Pause and think this one through… don’t state the obvious things that you know “should” be in your top 5, but rather who/what you spend the most time caring for in your life daily. Be honest with yourself.
Does “neighbor” make your list?
Why should loving our neighbor be a priority? Because it happens to be part of God’s greatest commandment to us.
“And you shall 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: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
LOVE GOD and LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR… that’s hard to do if they don’t even make our priority list! Here is a question! Did “YOU” even make your list? If we are to love our neighbor as ourselves and taking care of “us” isn’t a priority no wonder they didn’t make the list either!
Luke 10 gives us a very clear picture of who our neighbor is and how intentional we need to be when it comes to influencing them by loving them well.
“And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “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.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 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[a] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” Luke 10:25-37
The parable of the Good Samaritan tells us that even those we don’t think of as our neighbor we are to treat as though they are. This means all those people we overlook because they don’t fit into our list or the mold we have created for what our “neighbor” means.
Daily we are given the chance to interact with people buzzing around us and to influence them with our lives. Loving them well means at all times, not just when it is convenient and easy. Pause for a moment and think through your normal day, how many people scurry by you without you engaging with them or even noticing them? You never know what those people are going through, what their lives look like behind the curtain you see, or how God could use you to influence them to know him. What if they are in a moment of their lives when they have cried out to God “if you’re real, show me”? …And then there you are.
How differently would you approach your day if you knew that God was bringing one person across your path that had been crying out to know him? Why would you not approach every single day like this? After all, you are the salt of the earth, the light on a hill, an ambassador of Jesus, a royal priesthood, filled with the Holy Spirit… and the earth is full of people who need to know Jesus, even if they don’t realize it yet.
Together let’s ask God in our own words to make us AWARE of the neighbors around us and to give us the Holy Spirit nudge we need daily to make him known to them.
By Carrie Ann Williams