We had been living in our neighborhood for about 3 years. It had changed quite a bit in that short time, and many of the people we had spent time with had moved out or moved on. Our children are past the age where they spend much time playing outside making friends with the neighbors so socializing with those around us seemed more complicated than it did when they were little. I remember looking out at my street and thinking how little I knew about the people living right next to me. At this time, my husband and I were leading a life group and we were doing a study by Judah Smith called “Jesus Is” and Judah was talking about how much God loves us and encourages us to share that love with others.
That night as the hubs and I were cleaning up the living room after group we started talking about our lack of relationship with our neighbors. The people across the street were rough people. These neighbors were the kind who regularly had the police at their home, helping them navigate intense social interactions. For all intents and purposes, these were not people we would hang out with regularly. HOWEVER, my husband and I had been recently convicted with two verses:
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”
– John 13:35
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these”
– Mark 12:30-31
So now we needed a plan and a way to be able to love these people. They weren’t just hanging out on their front porch waiting for us to say “hello” types of people. We needed a way to show them we cared, a way to show them love. So, we started to pray as a couple and with our Life Group; that God would show us how to love our neighbors and that He would give us opportunities where we could reach out to them. We asked that God would provide us with the opportunity to show them His kindness so that we could be a light in their dark circumstances.
Two days later we got our first opportunity. The Father of the house was moving a large piece of furniture by himself across the yard on a hot day. A day that we just happened to be home and we just happened to notice. My husband looked at me and said, “Here it is, here’s my opportunity”. He went over and helped the man move the furniture and told him if he ever needed help with anything else give us a holler. It wasn’t very long before we were given another opportunity to help him move his car that had broken down. We tried to show love at every opportunity; wanting to live up to what God had put on our hearts as well as live up to the Family Church bumper sticker on our car.
A few weeks later we hadn’t heard or seen much from our neighbors but it was a beautiful sunny day so we decided to pack up and head to Cooper Creek for the afternoon and who should we run into but our neighbors. We were able to share some time hanging out on the shore, and my husband helped their son work on his golf swing. Shortly after that the family suffered a loss and moved away. But still, we were there to offer help and hope in a time of grief.
I wholeheartedly believe that God is the reason we were able to enter into conversations with these neighbors. After all, we had lived in this neighborhood for 3 years and had never once had the opportunity to talk to the adults who lived in this house. We asked for a way to show God’s love to those around us and God showed up time and time again.
Recently pastor Paul challenged us to find 3 people and begin praying for them so that we might invite them to Easter service. I would challenge you to take that challenge. Find 3 people and ask God to show you how you might show them love, how you might build relationship, how you might begin a conversation. And then the next most important part is you need to do it; take the chance He gives you and be open to the conversation. Offer the help needed and take the opportunity to shine light into the darkness around you. It may not end up in a conversion, they may not join you at church, but you very well may end up being a part of the story God is writing in their life.