Love Your ________ Neighbor.
There are people in your circle, people who live on your street that nobody wants to hang out with. People who you work with that everybody tells the joke behind their back. They may have those quirks. Or they may have a different lifestyle. Or they may have a different belief system or a different religion or dress differently because of their culture.
They’re not in the “in crowd.” They’re not popular. This is a facet of personal ministry that’s often overlooked. We are called to build bridges of love to the unpopular… well, really to everyone.
As believers, we are called to “love thy neighbor.”
My Christian neighbor
My Muslim neighbor
My homeless neighbor
My homosexual neighbor
My aging neighbor
My republican neighbor
My liberal neighbor
My unpopular neighbor
We are called to love EVERYONE.
I encourage you to intentionally build friendships with people who don’t have friends. Intentionally build friendships with people who are unbelievers. Intentionally build friendships with people who seem on the edge or are not as loved or as accepted in the mainstream because of their religion, their lifestyle, their looks, or whatever.
Why does God want us to build bridges of love to the unpopular and specifically to unbelievers? Because you cannot win your enemies to Christ. You can only win your friends.
Before somebody’s going to accept Christ they’ve got to have a bridge to Christ. Before they know Jesus as their friend, they’re going to want to know will you be my friend? You must become a friend. You must love people.
Here’s a good example of it, Matthew 9. The Bible says Matthew, one of the twelve disciples
Matt 9:10-13 Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. 11But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” 12When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” 13Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: [then he quotes Hosea 6:6] ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Follow me on the logic on this. The Pharisees are attacking Jesus for hanging out with the wrong crowd, and Jesus says, “you know what your problem is, guys? You don’t understand the true nature of mercy.” Why? Because they thought mercy was simply forgiving people and helping people who need help. No. Mercy also includes building bridges of love to the unpopular.
Now I want you to notice, because there’s a lot of truth here. Notice the verse above says “Matthew invited.”
Question: When was the last time you invited unbelievers for dinner? That’s an act of mercy. When was the last time you invited? Have you ever had any notorious sinners in your home? Besides you.
Do we even have any close unbelieving friends? If we don’t, we’re not like Jesus. The problem is the longer we’re a Christian, the more we tend to hang out with other Christians and the fewer non believing friends we have. How do we expect the good news to get out if we don’t have any friends who are unbelievers, and we’re not inviting them over for dinner? If we’re not, we don’t understand what mercy is all about.
What are some practical ways you can build bridges of love to someone else?
Who can you intentionally pour into this week? Who can you share a meal with before the end of this month?