On Sunday I invited people to think about ways that they can love their neighbor this week. We each had a pink slip of paper and we wrote down the name or names of those we were going to extend love to this week. At the end of the service we were invited to bring those slips of paper forward and place them in a basket that was right before the cross. I found that to be a powerful time in our service as I watched so many of you walk forward and bring a name forward.
I’ve been reading a book recently titled “The Neighboring Church”. It talks about the importance of churches loving their neighbor as Jesus commanded. The writers use the term “neighboring” to capture their understanding of how individuals and churches can live that commandment out. Neighboring can look like a lot of things, they admit, but the writers make a case that “loving your neighbor as yourself” is something that we must do in our day-to-day lives. It also means that a church must not look only inside at its own programs, events, etc., but that a church must also (and perhaps primarily) look outside its walls and extend love to the people not a part of their church.
The book has been both encouraging and challenging for me. There is a section in the book where the authors talk about the process of shifting their church focus to “neighboring”. I found these words to be thought provoking:
“I was honest with both staff and leaders that we didn’t know what this new commitment to the Great Commandment was going to look like. We did know it was likely to be a bit messy, and if they needed a clear road map, they might need to get off the bus. We only knew the direction, because we could not see the path ahead completely. Admittedly, we sometimes still don’t. Neighboring is that kind of journey. It’s also a hard journey. As one of our elders said, “You are messing with my life!” (The Neighboring Church, pg. 15)
Personally, I’m not ready to invite anyone to get “off the buss”! However, I resonated with this because those words capture so well how I feel right now about where God is leading us at Emmaus. I believe there is a clear direction that we should go. And while we may have a couple of small maps that will guide us in some ways, the truth is we are also doing some exploring and map making as we go.
So, how is it going extending love to the person you listed on that pink piece of paper? I hope that God is guiding you in that. And I hope that whatever it is that you have done, or plan to do for that person, will be received as an encouragement and as an act of kindness from you to them.
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus.