As we have looked at getting to know our neighbors, building relationships with them and then getting to know them even better and helping them to get to know each other better through group events (Get all these posts in your email inbox by signing up below), perhaps you have wondered why we do this.
Are we networking, finding people who have something we need or who may buy something we’re selling?
Maybe we are building relationships so we can convince people to accept Jesus or attend our church?
Another possibility is that since most people want to live in a friendly neighborhood, maybe we are building relationships with our neighbors to improve the value of our property?
Or are we just looking for friends?
None of these are really our reason.
We try to get to know our neighbors, whether they live on our block, three streets over, in the next neighborhood or across town because as followers of Jesus we try to unconditionally love everyone who crosses our path.
But shouldn’t we try to get our neighbors to attend our church or accept Jesus (or both)?
Hmmm… Consider a parable Jesus told. We usually call it the “Parable of the Good Samaritan,” though it might be better to call it the “Parable of the Beaten Man Lying By the Side of the Road.”
Is the parable about Samaritans, people in need, religious people who are too busy with their religion to help people in need, or what?
Is it possible that one lesson Jesus is teaching us is that our neighbor can be anyone who crosses our path (or whose path we cross)?
Might another lesson be that we should help and love people lavishly, with no expectation of getting anything in return? Could it be that Jesus is teaching us to love other people simply because they are our neighbors?
But how can we love whoever crosses our path, with absolutely no agenda? Is that possible?
It is possible. We think this is what Jesus is talking about in “love your neighbor as yourself” and in the story we call the “Parable of the Good Samaritan.”
But shouldn’t we tell people about Jesus?
We love them first and tell them about Jesus when they ask.
Many do ask, but not all. Most people we know have figured out that we follow Jesus. Sooner or later they ask us about it, when they’re ready to talk about it.
We do not love people so that we can tell them about Jesus. We love them so that they can ask us about Jesus.
And maybe they will not ever ask us about Jesus. That’s okay. We love them still, unconditionally, with no strings attached and no hidden agenda.
My job is to love people like Jesus; God’s job is to draw them to Jesus.
Many years ago a couple we slightly knew invited us to their house for “dessert,” which turned out to be a high pressure sales presentation for a multilevel marketing company. We felt tricked. Even though we have received many subsequent invitations from other people we know for similar presentations (always disguised as something else), we could smell those a long way off, like dead fish, and we have never been “tricked” again.
So it goes with most attempts to “win people to Jesus” (which usually means getting them to attend our church). Most people can smell “fake friendship” a long way off and avoid these people like they avoid dead fish.
Smelling like Jesus, however, smells like loving our neighbor, loving them lavishly for the pure and simple reason that we are the kind of person who does this, loving them with absolutely no agenda attached.
That is a sweet smell, a pleasant aroma, both to our neighbor and to Jesus.
Do you want to win people to Jesus? Simply love them like Jesus, with no agenda whatsoever.
What experiences have you had in loving other people like Jesus? Share an example in the comments below of how you showed lavish love on someone whose path you crossed, with no strings attached.