“Love Your Neighbor so that…”
I got my first job when I was fifteen and throughout high school and college, my job would change based on my schedule and the season. I worked in a gas station, IHOP, Schlitterbahn, a gymnastics academy, Guess? Factory Outlet, and a couple others, but my least favorite job was working at a telephone survey company. I was paid to convince people to do telephone surveys to gather market research information. I think what I hated most about the job was that you were paid based on the average number of surveys you completed per hour, but the survey could take anywhere from 25-90 minutes depending on the person’s answers…so to get them to take the survey, we had a script we had to follow, “I’d like to ask you a few questions for a market research study.” As the surveys got longer and longer, respondents would inevitably ask, “How much longer will this take?”
“Oh it’s just a few more questions.” I think I hated it because it was so disingenuous. Nobody would ever agree to do a 90 minute telephone survey….ever. I’m reading a book right now called “The Art of Neighboring,” and in it, the authors discuss how motives matter when it comes to building neighboring relationships. They write:
“We believe that Jesus answers the ultimate questions of life and has the ultimate answers for our cities and neighborhoods. Our hope, dream, and desire is that everyone will have a meaningful relationship with Jesus. So sharing the story of Jesus and his impact on our lives is the right motive, but it cannot be an ulterior motive in developing relationships. We don’t love our neighbors to convert them; we love our neighbors because we are converted.”
In other words, good neighboring doesn’t come with strings attached. We love our neighbors because that’s how we respond to God’s love, not because we want them to come to our church or because we want them to know Jesus. I mean, yes, in the grand scheme of things, we want people to know Jesus, however, people are turned off by insincerity. Is it plainly obvious that you’re looking for a friend or that you’re trying to boost worship attendance? But let’s be honest, forcing conversations about Jesus on unsuspecting strangers isn’t really our issue. Many of us live at the other end of the spectrum.
There’s an important conversation to be had about how and when to share faith with others, but before we ever even get to that point, we remember that God calls us into connection—sincere, authentic relationships with our neighbors not for any other purpose besides love. The greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart mind soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
It is not:
Love your neighbor as yourself so that… or
Love your neighbor as yourself if…
The other stuff grows out of authentic relationships where sacred space is created for God to do what only God can do.