The PEARL: Part 5 – Love
I don’t like my neighbors. In fact, we’re thinking of moving because they’re terrible people. Will you pray for me?
A young mother approached me with these words after I taught a breakout session on
“Reinventing the Backyard Bible Club.” I hugged her and responded, “Yes, I will pray for you, but I want you to pray as well—not for yourself but for your neighbors.” We both prayed. Then I shared the idea of holding a movie night out on the lawn, and she jumped at the idea saying, “Oh that’s great. Then I don’t actually have to invite them into my house.” She quickly hung her head and said, “See, I just don’t love them.”
Welcome to the fifth and final article on the Pearl. So far, we’ve talked about how to . . .
Pray for your neighbors.
Eat with them
Ask them good questions.
Reveal your own story.
Now let’s talk about how to . . .
Love them tangibly.
Love is crucial if you want to reach your neighbors. You probably already knew that. But like the mom above, you may find yourself feeling frustrated with the behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs of the people next door. I can only say one thing (okay, three things): pray, pray, pray.
Prayer is the way to develop a heart of love for others. Do you think your neighbors are just the worst? Jesus prayed for the worst of the worst. Those mocking Him and hurting Him as He hung on the cross received His prayer of forgiveness. Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus loves your neighbors just as much.
Your neighbors are lost. That’s why they behave the way they do. They don’t even know that the things they say and do are indicators of their need of a Savior. But you know what they need. You may be strategically placed where you are in order to show them what love looks like.
When our neighbor was so drunk that he threw his beer onto the grass fire he’d inadvertently started on his front lawn, or when we came home one weekend to find the windshield of our car burned from an exploding firework gone awry, we had to practice forbearance and love. We didn’t leave. We stayed. We showed love. We found joy in the midst of the craziness of our lost cul-de-sac.
So, what does it look like to love your neighbors? It’s all the little things of the weeks, months, and years. It’s mowing the median between your driveways. It’s lending a cup of sugar and sharing a cup of tea. It’s walking across the street to say, “Hi.” It’s asking your neighbors what they want for their lives and really listening. It’s babysitting, dog sitting, or just sitting in a lawn chair watching fireworks together. It’s helping them shovel their driveway before you’ve done yours. It’s crying with them when they’ve lost a loved one and rejoicing when they’ve found joy again. It’s all of these things and more.
Do you lack the courage to make a start? Pray for love.
Do you fear the ramifications of exposing your children? Pray for love.
Do you struggle to find the words to begin? Pray for love.
Let the Sunday school song “Jesus Loves Me” be your guide. Note especially verse two:
Jesus loves me
He who died
Heaven’s gates to open wide
He will wash away my sin
let this little child come in.
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves [your neighbors]
The Bible tells me so.
Be like Jesus. Open wide the gates of your heart and your home. Be willing to let them come in, so they may one day enter Heaven’s gates as little children of the great and loving King.
You know, it’s likely you’ll gain something from this courageous endeavor. Perhaps you’ll find joy and laughter. Perhaps you’ll make friendships that last an eternity. Perhaps you’ll experience love the way God intended. Love your neighbors as yourself and share with them the pearl of great price that you possess in the love of Jesus.
Joleen Steel is the curriculum specialist for Camping Stick Kids. She has a B.A. in elementary education. She taught public school for ten years before deciding to open her own music studio and homeschool her boys. Joleen is a pastor’s wife and grew up as a pastor’s kid. Her love for the good news of Jesus Christ flows out of her and into the camping stick kids curriculum. Her easy style and creative approach to teaching will encourage your student to learn the Gospel story and be able to share the good news with their friends and family. Joleen would love to have you visit the camping stick kids website and blog. Come say hi at www.campingstickkids.com