Pam and I have dear, dear friends who we have spent a ton of time together discussing complications and curveballs that can be thrown at a marriage, family, friends, and relationships in general. They know us, and we know them. There is something that sets this couple apart from most of us. They invest tons of time loving on and caring for their neighbors up and down their street. If there is a holiday, special day, or just a spontaneous gathering in their community, it will be hosted usually weather permitting in our friend’s backyard around a nice pool. Let me assure you, it is loud, funny, expessive, and sometimes crazy but there is always evidence of a close-knit community.
Last night while celebrating multiple family birthdays, their next-door neighbor died as a result of a self-inflicted wound. Our friends called me this morning asking us to pray for the deceased’s husband and especially their own daughter who called her Aunt “Sally” (pseudo name). Their families had become so close that they were devastated. The thing that got me about the phone call is the depth of our friends’ genuine grief over the loss of their neighbor.
Would you cry and grieve if your next-door neighbor died? As Christ-followers, I believe we should be vested in our neighbors and neighborhood. They may not want what we want or believe like we believe; however, I believe we look for ways to connect and build depth in that connection. Ask God to give you sincere, deep love for them. John 12 models the depth of compassion that Jesus expressed while human for dear friends who grieved, “When Jesus saw Mary weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept.” We are emotional beings who can suppress, oppress, or depress but God wants you to express your emotions. When you genuinely cry for another, it’s an expression of God (Romans 12:15).
The one thing above all that should be evidenced to our community in each of our lives is the sacrificial “agape” love of Jesus. This love is described by these characteristics: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs, it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Cor. 13:4-7). Carry these fifteen characteristics into your community and see what God does. Put them on a wall so that you are reminded of them. Care for neighbors in real terms. If there is a sickness, take food. If there is a need, try to help. Step by step be steadfast and obedient and don’t give up or in. It will take time but will be well worth it in the end. Agape love will prevail.
Matthew 5:14-16 challenges us to “be the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”