Rev. Mike Jones, ONA Executive Director
Moderator Williams has chosen the great “Shema” (Deut. 6:4-9 and Mt. 22:37-40) as the theme of our Synod this year. Jesus quoted it when the rich young ruler asked him, “What is the greatest commandment?” Today it may sound like, “Jesus, tell me the bare minimum I need to pass.” (Like my teenagers in chemistry class!) He thought he would find a shortcut to heaven. Yet Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” That’s a tall order! Many of us are seeking to do that as much as we can in this life. But often, we forget the rest of the commandment. “’And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Mt. 22:37-40)
So, how’s that going?
When we think of outreach, evangelism, making a gospel impact or growing the church, it’s often easy to overlook an important and readily available weapon that just about all of us have. What is this weapon? Our home and our neighborhood. How “offensive" is your home? How are you using it as a weapon to penetrate the darkness of your local neighborhood?
Dr. Jim Hatch of the PCA Mission to North America recently quipped, “What are your neighbors like?" I asked the same to a family in one of our churches. The memorable response was, "They're great neighbors! They leave us alone and we leave them alone." Sounds nice, but not very biblical. Many of us love some of our neighbors, but not all of them. Many of us don’t even KNOW all of our neighbors- much less love them. And while we love the Lord our God, we often times neglect the second part of the commandment. Yet, God has sovereignly placed neighbors to the left, right, behind and in front of us (and in some cases even above and below us)! GK Chesterton said, “We make our friends; we make our enemies, but God makes our next door neighbor…We have to love our neighbor because he is there.” Think about it. If each one of us seized the opportunities (Col. 4:5) that the sovereign Lord gives us each day with our neighbors, how profound the Kingdom impact would be!
I recommend two resources to help learn how to engage your neighbors. Dr. Dave Runyon, in a book called The Art of Neighboring, provides some very helpful tools to intentionally implement a ministry to all the neighbors the Lord has supplied. Dr. Rosario Butterfield, in the last chapter of her book Openness Unhindered, explores the amazing gospel impact that hospitality and community can have on your neighbors.
So, how are you doing with the second greatest commandment?