Neighbourhood Matters

Our neighbour is more than just the household living beside us but everyone and anyone.No matter their social status, gender, beliefs, or ability.

Jesus teaches that the Church has an obligation to reach out and listen to our neighbours, ultimately as we are inspired to share Christ’s love with the world no matter the challenges at hand.

The Church isn’t just a place where people meet to worship God on Sunday or at least it shouldn’t be that way. With the pandemic and stay at home orders, the Christian community adapted to other forms of fellowship beyond the in-person Sunday congregation.

Such non-traditional means of congregational fellowship should be a timely reminder to Christians that the Church ought not to be confined to be bounds of four walls and a pulpit.We managed to show love and care to church members without the physical presence of a building, which points to the bigger question.

How is the Christian community sharing Christ’s love in our wider neighbourhood on a regular basis?

Learning from the Resurrection

In April, we celebrated Easter and the Bible tells us that in the lead up to Christ’s crucifixionthat his disciple Peter denied Him three times. After Christ’s resurrection, Peter is confronted and is asked three times of his love for Him. Jesus apart from showing mercy, compassion and forgiveness to Peter gives him an important commandment which we should all heed as the Church today that being we ought to be tending to His sheep and feeding His lambs.

It may sound questionable or even potentially too Biblically charged­ – in reality such commandment is all the more so applicable in the world today. May it be our daily prayer that we be granted the privilege and patience to love our neighbour including those we find hard to love.

This is instruction to Christians – to be caring and reaching out beyond the walls of the church building.

One of the best ways that Christians can be demonstrating our love for Christ is how we worship Him in our daily lives not just on how well we sing on Sunday.

The example of Christ throughout the Easter story in passionately redeeming each one of us, even before we realised that we are in need of salvation is our modern call to action for us to be striving to passionate in the provision of hope for lost people in our own local community.

Boundary-less love

Among our neighbourhood there are different people often literally separated by roads and fences, but the challenge in navigating such divides is something that Christians do not need to face alone. As we strive towards our final destination of inheriting the kingdom of God, we in fact do have a map to guide us being the Bible. But even more so, we have GPS too and the voice of the GPS in some sense is God speaking and reminding us daily of the direction we ought to be heading.

God’s love for us especially demonstrated through Christhad no boundaries. The background and circumstances of the people that Jesus interacted with in the Gospels, had no bearing on the extent of the care and compassion offered by Him. Each one of us may lack the ability or resources at first hand to reach a wide community, but by coming together as a church can we be sharing hope and love with our neighbourhood.

In making time out of our day, we can start to be making a difference in the life of even just giving one personyour attention. We are not striving for big bold pronouncements but rather it’s the little things most of us are able to do that can give a sense of hope being a friend to someone in need to fixing up someone’s garden. Let us not be segregated by the physical dividers in our society to allow Christ’s love bestowed upon us by His grace to be shared vehemently among others in our world so that they might also achieve peace.

To be in tune with our neighbourhood with helpful goodness, we must rely on Jesus’ light and love in firstly bringing ourselves before God to humble our existence before Him. Once we are on His side, we are no longer lost and can start to be effective in being courageous in increasing the kingdom of God beyond the challenges of nationality, beliefs, customs, and traditions to share the love of our Heavenly Father.

A Prayer for Compassion

Looking in the Gospels, we see examples of various individuals from all walks of life crying out and in the pursuit of hope. Whether it be Zacchaeus up the tree, the bleeding woman, or the Samaritan woman at the well, each person was there eager to have their life changed for the better. All it took was an individual (in this case Jesus)to defy social norms and the barriers that divide us to be able to make a difference.

Let us pray that God will allow our hearts to shine His love through our thoughts and actions whether it be at home, work, with my friends, family and in importantly in the wider community.  Give me the heart of compassion to reach out beyond who I am to increase and advance the Kingdom of God in and through my life, I ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Casting a wider eye to those in need

Jesus took the time to stop and spend time with those on the outcasts and margins of our society. Such deed should inspire us to seek out the modern-day Zacchaeus, bleeding woman or Samaritan woman at the well. Let us not look past the opportunity to be welcoming with open arms especially those in dire need of hope and love. May God give us understanding and wisdom to be able to see into others’ struggles and courage to journey alongside them in offering of restoration through God’s grace.

Even as the Church works through and adapts to the realities of COVID with its generationally shaping impacts, we cannot forsake the basic commandment to be loving our neighbour. Christians need to have a desire to be transforming our lives on the daily through Jesus and then ultimately to be playing an active role in seeing ourselves as the Church in thewider community. COVID should serve as a reminder that the physical church building should not be the limits of what the Christian church actually is. Rather that what is happening in the wider community should be concern for the Church whether it be domestic violence victims, people experiencing homelessness to those suffering from mental health crises; if we truly love our neighbour, we will strive to share the love of God not just in word but truthfully through our actions.

The past few years have been difficult and what not a better time to turn to our Heavenly Father who sees not just each of our challenges, the struggles of the world, but ultimately the ability of Christians to step forward and be making a difference. May we seek first the kingdom of God which empowers us to be a loving Church for all and ultimately a place where those who are lost can find shelter in Jesus’ love.

This article was first published at Christian Today Australia on Monday 9 May 2022.