Practical Thoughts on Ministering to Neighbors, Part 3

Person Doing Shopping For Elderly NeighbourPart three: Be Willing to be Taken Advantage of

Read part two here.

My sweaty neighbor was standing in my garage asking to borrow a drill. (It had something to do with his daughter’s swing set). Turns out, the battery to my Ryobi cordless drill was dead as a doornail –as usual. But then, I remembered that I had another drill, a much better drill. A Craftsman electric drill to be exact. I was about to offer it to him when the thought hit me, “Will I ever get it back?”

While I don’t believe for one moment that it was in my neighbor’s heart to take advantage of me, was I willing to suffer loss in order to demonstrate the gospel through this act of kindness? Let’s suppose this neighbor’s motives were of a devious nature. Let’s also suppose that I even knew he had the type of project that could cause harm to a drill, and although he had a drill, he chose to ask to use mine in order to save the wear and tear on his own drill. If you were in my situation, would you still loan it out?

Perhaps the issue is not loaning. Perhaps there’s resistance to simply give something away. Or, perhaps the situation calls for you to buy something for them that you feel pretty sure they could buy for themselves?

I remember a moment when a neighbor needed cat litter. (I don’t have cats, but have you ever checked into the price of cat litter? It isn’t cheap!) Can I afford to spend $ 50 on cat litter? Was I willing to do it whether or not he paid me back? If we’re honest, in our worst moments, we do these mental calculations.

No one wants to be taken advantage of. But are we willing because we will be taken advantage of—eventually. Jesus was willing to be taken advantage of. He fed thousands of hungry people who came for the bread, but not the Bread of Life.

Jesus was willing to go far beyond being taken advantage of; he died for us, the Bible says, “while we were still sinners”. When Jesus died, he was shown absolutely NO sense of appreciation by the people he did it for. He knew this and did it anyway…and did it with joy.

If we’re going to reach our neighbors for Christ, we need to be willing to be taken advantage of. It is as we first find our own joy in what Jesus has fully accomplished for us, despite how we’ve taken advantage of him, that we will be willing to serve others, at great cost to us.

Practical Thoughts On Ministering to Neighbors Part 1 of 3

Practical Thoughts On Ministering to Neighbors Part 1 of 3

Part One: The Key To Reaching Our Neighbors

“You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem…” (Acts 1:8). We are witnesses for Christ—first—right where we are. Certainly, this includes our neighbors. Does the thought of that scare you? Perhaps you don’t even know your neighbor’s names. My hope is that this mini-series on ministering to your neighbors will be of encouragement to your family.

The first point I’d like to make is that the love of Christ must compel us to reach out to our neighbors.

We Are All Busy

We are all very busy. We are often busy doing “good” things; things that seem or may in fact be necessary. But many good things we do will not survive the fire of judgement (1 Cor. 3:13) and each of us under the Holy Spirit’s direction needs to judge what we’re busy doing to make the wisest choices possible.

Because we’re busy, we often don’t want to do outreach. So, we do it under duress. We risk undermining our purpose through half-heartedness or we just plain fizzle out.

Christ’s Love is the KEY Motivation

Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5:14 how important Christ’s love is as a motivation for service. The love of our Savior is seen in his death and resurrection and the glorious riches that are ours because of his finished work. Ephesians 1 and 2; and Romans 1-8 are just several of many, many excellent passages that describe what we have in Christ.

A Practical Example of Christ’s Love 

For several years now, my family has been helping one of our neighbors through stage 4 Alzheimer’s and other health issues. The help they’ve needed has been multi-dimensional and intensive. Our primary assistance has been periodic usually in response to various medical emergencies. One morning not long ago, I was tired and had too many other things to do, and frankly, I had no strength in me to do anything for them. The conversation around the breakfast table was not one I would want repeated. It was pretty sad and what’s more sad is that this was not an isolated incident.

Then the Holy Spirit, as He has done before in this situation, reminded me of 2 Corinthians 5:14. I shared it and discussed it with the family and we were able to do what needed to be done…with a joyful heart. This was no work of my own. No set of steps about how to minister could have changed my heart and moved me to action. This was the Holy Spirit alone in me, bringing the gospel to mind. I was a recipient of God’s love in Christ! What he did for me was far more difficult than what I needed to do for this couple. Because I had received God’s love, I could love, too.

If we are struggling to reach out to our neighbors, we should resist knuckling under to a sense of duty and instead, dwell on the great love that we’ve been shown in Christ (Phil. 4:8). His love for us is causative. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Dwell on The Love of Christ!

Dwelling on his love as demonstrated in all that we’ve been given in Christ will convict us and lead us to repentance which then frees us to reach out to our neighbors.  It’s not our normal default to think about God’s love. But we must be intentional in doing this.

Continue to Part two.