When one in every of my neighbors cursed me out—in entrance of my children—for not shoveling the driveway to his liking, the concept I ought to like him appeared absurd. However then I remembered: the command to like my neighbor is just not rooted within the loveliness of my neighbor. Christ’s command is shockingly unqualified (Matt. 22:39).
It’s laborious sufficient to like our neighbors after they’re variety and civil. Actual neighbor love requires sacrifice: whether or not of non-public time, comfort, or consolation—three intangibles deified in our secular age the place the self reigns supreme.
Due to our private bent towards self-love—strengthened by the accompanying cultural strain—real love of neighbor is all of the extra essential and countercultural. And extra importantly, that is an important and indeniable mark of biblical Christianity (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:34–40).
The apply of loving our neighbors will be fantastically diverse—caring for the sick, displaying hospitality, volunteering to serve the town, offering for the needy, and extra. There’s no one-size-fits-all for working towards neighbor love. The truth is, our varied contexts ought to give rise to numerous varieties.
However I wish to counsel one vital, stunning manner we will love our neighbors: church planting.
Explicit Folks and Place
Think about the character of this endeavor: A church plant entails gathering, equipping, and unleashing a motivated group of believers, prayerfully and strategically, who will root themselves in a selected neighborhood to take a position, preach, love, and serve.
Planting a church, rightly understood, is likely one of the finest methods we will love our neighbors.
When a church is planted, God’s individuals—empowered by the Spirit and commissioned by the risen Christ—are enabled to minister amongst specific individuals in a selected place. Simply as our gospel proclamation is contextualized in church planting, so too is our gospel demonstration—the best way we love our neighbors in accordance with their wants. Church planting, then, is uniquely fertile floor for the apply of neighbor love.
Planting church buildings empowers widespread and inventive types of neighbor love whereas including a novel ingredient to it: longevity. Most of my particular person makes an attempt at loving my neighbors have been flashes within the pan. However neighbor love that’s short-lived within the arms of a person can turn into long-lasting within the arms of a neighborhood. One thing, say, like a church plant.
Neighbor love that’s short-lived within the arms of a person can turn into long-lasting within the arms of a neighborhood. One thing, say, like a church plant.
I used to be not too long ago reminded of church planting’s distinctive capability as a car for neighbor love after I realized of an area household who planted a church in South Memphis—an especially underserved and impoverished space. Alongside their labors in discipleship and preaching, this small church plant is loving their neighbors by working literacy lessons for youths from the block—one thing they’ve now been doing for almost a decade.
Once we interpret and apply neighbor love via a company lens—along with our default particular person lens—then real, long-term love that honors and shows Christ is inside our attain.
Knowledge and Integration
After all, it’s doable to plant a church with minimal emphasis on loving your neighbors. It’s additionally doable to plant a church that displaces the identical neighbors you hoped to like.
Subsequently, this work requires greater than good intentions; it calls for hard-won knowledge. On the very least, a plant that loves its neighbors nicely might be a plant that prays often and vigorously.
Additional, planting a church requires theological precision and integration. Augustine famously defined two key ideas for deciphering Scripture:
Anybody who thinks that he has understood the divine Scriptures or any a part of them, however can’t by his understanding construct up this double love of God and neighbor, has not but succeeded in understanding them.
Simply as our understanding of Scripture will be evaluated by whether or not it results in the double love of God and neighbor, so too the faithfulness of our church-planting efforts will be evaluated by whether or not they result in the double obligation of the Nice Commandment and the Nice Fee.
Phrase and Deed
Church planting that doesn’t result in loving our neighbors in phrase and deed doesn’t wholly grasp its God-given objective. However this additionally means church planting that sees the Nice Commandment as an inseparable sibling (not a distracting rival) to the Nice Fee might be uniquely poised to proactively love in phrase and deed.
I’m reminded of a number of New England church vegetation which have every partnered with an area faculty, directing their members to volunteer as tutors, and supporting the employees with reward playing cards and provides.
Church planting that doesn’t result in loving our neighbors in phrase and deed has not wholly understood its God-given process and objective.
I consider my former church plant that partnered with two different vegetation to create a coalition to fulfill the bodily wants of immigrant college students arriving to native colleges with no shelter, no meals, and no kinfolk.
Whereas these may seem to be lofty initiatives, they’re each easier than they sound and simpler than they could appear. And so they all began with strange church vegetation embracing the privilege and the command—from Jesus—to like their neighbors as themselves.