I wrote this piece quite a long time ago and have resisted sharing because, as far as conversations with God go, for some this may seem a little flowered up and I felt some may doubt the authenticity of this and disregard it.
But I promise you this is a real conversation with God and, even more to the point, God wants me to share it this week.
One morning rather randomly I was looking out the window as I was drinking a mug of coffee and staring down our street and I felt like God pressed on my heart.
Terri do you love your neighbour?
‘The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”’
Mark 12:31 NLT
“Yes, of course, I do,” I quickly responded in my head. For a split second, I got a picture of a birds-eye view of the street plan. The wealthy at the top of the street, less wealthy at the bottom, like-minded on the same side as me. Opposites on the other side of the street from me. And everyone else on a different street altogether.
I felt God telling me that it doesn’t just mean love the people in the house beside you.
The ones that share your views or support the same causes, have the same beliefs, attend your church, have kids the same age, and so on. The people on the same side as you, they’re easy to love.
What about the neighbours in the house opposite you? The ones who have completely opposite views to you? They have different interests, support different causes, follow a different religion! Are they not as equally worthy of your love?
What about the folks at the top of your street? The high flyers! The people society deems successful: bigger car, a bigger house, bigger ambitions, bigger heads! Do you allow your envy to get in the way of loving these people? How much does all that matter if they don’t have God? Should we love them less because they have more things?
‘And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?’
Mark 8:36 NLT
The people at the bottom of your street…the people who don’t have a car. Don’t have a job. Don’t have “much” outwardly. “What if they had Me?” God prompted, “What do you do to bring me into their lives?”
‘Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but helping the poor honours him.’
What about the people living in the house on the same side but around the corner? The ones that go to your church, share your political views, have kids at the same school? However, mum is carrying a secret – heavily burdened, filled with shame, guilt and worries. If it were exposed, she would be cast out. The dad with a serious anger issue and is desperate to break free from the endless cycle of losing control. He’s constantly apologising and longing to change his ways. Are they secure enough in your love that they can share their burdens?
God asked, “Does your heart reflect mine when you spend time with these friends? Or are you busy gossiping and judging?”
‘Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticise their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbour’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole travelling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbour.’
Matthew 7:1-5 MSG
What about the guys on the next street?! The drug addicts,
the homeless, shamed, broken, bent, and misshaped?
Do you love them? If not, why not?
‘I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. ‘
John 13:16 NLT
We are called to love, not judge – not to put conditions on our love. God never puts conditions on the love he has for us.
We are called to love the same thinkers, the rule breakers, the moneymakers.
Love the ignorant, the arrogant, the irrational. Love the contrary, conniving, deceitful, and the hurt!
Love the broken, the lost, the burdened. Love the people who hurt us, who have wronged us, who cause our pain.
Love the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the bulky and the thin, the tall and the short, the nos and the yeses. The good and the bad. The ugly and the beautiful. The sick and the well. The hungry and the well fed.
We can’t sit peeking through our blinds, casting our judgement and hoping that that neighbour will sell up and move away. Invite them to stay! Love them anyway.
Most importantly love God! Seek him, his heart and his ways. Above all else.
‘Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’
Matthew 22:37 NLT
Don’t just pray for change, be the change. Love unconditionally, irrationally, radically, dramatically! Love fully, fearlessly, and fiercely.
You cannot impact the world from your armchair of comfort and convenience.
You can’t lie in a king-sized bed and pray God magically makes everyone the same!
Love, God’s love!
BE KINGDOM. BE LOVE. BE LIGHT.
You may well just be the one and only encounter with God someone ever has.
Make it matter. Make it count.