This is the 2nd post after spending 24 hours with Bob Lupton in Richmond, VA this weekend.
Over lunch yesterday with Bob, on the way to the airport, he shared with Louis and me how over the nearly 40 years of community development, he had tried around 34 different ventures and only 3 are still in operation. I needed to hear that. Over the 24 hours in Richmond, he reminded us that it’s not always about the end result, but about the journey, the process, the failures (not just the successes). Questions I was left with…. Am I being obedient? Am I willing to take a risk? Am I willing to partner? Am I willing to put the community above my own agenda? Do people see me love others? Do people know that we are Christians by our love for others and our love for God?
During Friday night’s presentation, Bob reminded us of Jesus’ 3 Commands…(side note: How crazy is it that Bob would remind us of this, when this is exactly what Louis’ first sermon series is at New Hanover – starting TODAY?!?!?!?)
1 – The Great Commandment
Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV) 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
We hear a lot about what it looks like to love God. But, what does it look like to love our neighbor? When going about the business of serving God, we can’t just look at our one little piece, but we must take a look at the WHOLE community. What is the impact of “XYZ” on the community? For example…If we love our neighbor as ourselves, would we want a transitional house of 20 ex-cons across the street from our own home – when there are 3 other transitional homes within a couple of blocks? Would we want 80% of our neighborhood to be owner-occupied homes or renters? Would we want to force all the treatment centers, homeless shelters, etc. into one council district? What does that do to a community but further oppress it? Would we stop the buses from going into our community where the jobs are? or…
Would we look for ways to create jobs for ex-felons? Would we provide transportation to those jobs and to affordable fresh produce and other groceries? Would we provide a living wage? Would we have affordable housing for everyone – not just the poor, but our police, teachers, fireman, and state employees who sometimes make less than $30-35,000 a year? Would we speak up when injustice impacts our neighbor?
2 – The New Command
John 13:34-35 (NIV) “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
What does the world see when they look at us as Christians? Do they see a group of people who love one another? Do they know we are Jesus’ disciples by our love for one another? I know that we aren’t always going to agree. That is a given. But, even in our disagreement, are we doing it in a loving way?
For me, the following scripture is a non-negotiable…
John 14:6-7 (NIV) Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Some others who claim to be Christians say that is negotiable, for me…it isn’t. We can choose to disagree. I’m glad that God gives us free choice. It’s not up to me to determine ‘they aren’t Christians” because they believe something different than me. But, is it loving them to call me close-minded, arrogant, or intolerant because I do? Is it loving for me to tell another they are going to hell because they believe that all roads lead to heaven? I don’t think so. However, I chose to do my best at following Jesus’ commandments. Am I going to get them right all the time? Not a chance. I’m not perfect at it, but I do my best most of the time yet still have a very loooong way to go.
3 – The Great Commission
Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV) Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
We aren’t only called to love our God, love our neighbor, and love each other, but we are also called to share the Gospel and make disciples or Jesus Followers. So, it’s a both/and approach. Louis and I love to love our neighbors – and being loved by our neighbors. Many times it takes place in the form of parties, cookouts, open houses, pancake brunches, etc. Relationships are being built in the process. Everyone (who can) brings something to share in the meal. Sometimes it takes place in the form of being there when they need us, when a neighborhood kid forgets or loses their key and can’t get in the house, or just in the form of sharing tools or lending a helping hand. Unless directly pushed by the Spirit, relationship comes first, before sharing the Gospel. It’s common to be asked – Why do you do what you do? Why do you still live here after all that has happened? That is a perfect opportunity to share why….I love, because God first loved me…..
Thanks for taking the gloves off with us, Bob. Enjoy more pictures of the Friday night gathering…