Christians are generally liked, but do Christians love their neighbors?
“They like you,” declares the cover of the August issue of Christianity Today. A survey about the attitudes of ordinary folks concluded that we Christians are generally liked. CT is aimed at Americans who believe in and follow Jesus and are a part of the church he inaugurated. This little sentence on the cover is arresting. Since we are a band of Christians that describe ourselves as Evangelical Anabaptist and some say that CT aims to be the voice of “respectable evangelicalism,” I wonder if it is true of us.
Not that it should matter what an unbeliever thinks of you or me. It is predictable that differences in beliefs, core values and priorities will set us apart. Critique and evaluation of those of us who have ultimate allegiance to the Lord is inevitable.
What is true, however, is that the Bible reports that the early Christians had favor with people and that resulted in people being saved. Also true is that we are to live among and interact with unbelievers respectfully and peaceably and, in fact, to love our neighbors as ourselves.
And these words of Jesus take us right back to Senior Managing Editor Mark Galli’s clarification that the survey offered some important conclusions about how prebelievers view us: “…people don’t care if we are cool. They don’t think it is an improvement to call ourselves ‘Jesus followers’ instead of ‘Christians,’ let alone ‘evangelicals.’ (Personally, I’d want to push back on that.) …What people care about is whether they are loved. By God. And by others.”
Well hello! The second greatest commandment stands not only as a commandment but also as an undeniable criterion for what really matters once we have entered a faith-follow relationship with Jesus. What question does this beg?
Had I written the CT editorial, I’d have posed the same question Galli did: “How can we love the people for whom Jesus died?” Additionally, I would ask: How can we as a conference discern, train and deploy a hundred new effective kingdom-driven leaders and start 100 new churches that become life-transforming mission organisms? Getting that done would demonstrate some love, right?
But let’s start with what we can do as individuals. Without meaning to be anything but helpful, my first idea is to “do something.” I’ve been thinking recently about the phrase, “Action trumps everything.” There is a lot of truth to that. So here are some ideas on how to love your neighbor, teammate, coworker or soccer mom friend.
- Eat with someone. Out for lunch or in your own home, how about good old-fashioned hospitality? Some of the best connections ever made occur when we reach out to people who are starving to be loved by taking the time to share a meal with them. Maybe even cook that meal.
- Hobby with someone. Maybe you have been thinking about getting involved in a personal interest activity, to stretch yourself or to learn a new skill. Check the community options that are available and get in there and love on someone.
- Volunteer for a charity or service club. Just a couple of weeks ago a friend was reporting on how his involvement with a service club in the business world is opening doors for him to show and tell how God has captured him and given his life a center and stability that couldn’t come from anywhere else.
- Serve your neighbor. Pray for an insight as to how you could help out someone in your neighborhood: a meal or offering a skill that you have for repair or upkeep.
Since they already like us, don’t you think it is a good risk to love them? It would make a great Christmas gift.