When I look in the mirror, I don’t see words on a page, or a bearded Jewish man with very kind eyes looking back at me. Instead, I see a woman in her mid-40’s with greying hair, blue eyes and emerging crows feet.
However, my desire as a follower of Christ, is I want to reflect His essence. I want others to see Jesus in me. So then the question becomes, how do I, how do we, make this happen? Especially when in our Western civilization, individualism is highly prized. Yet, scripture says it is more blessed to give than receive. (Acts 20:35) HCSB
While we are responsible for our own spiritual growth, there is no replacing the need for others. This not only includes those in our regular circles, but those who are lying outside of our “gates” (home, church and work).
Proverbs 27:17 (HCSB) speaks to this principle. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. In other words, I need community, I need to share that which has been entrusted to me, my life. Yet, for me to succeed, there needs to be a “we” in this equation. I have to be willing to throw off the cloak of fake heroism which says “I must bear this burden alone.”
Those of us who claim Christ as savior, yet don’t share Him in tangible ways outside of our four walls are like the rich man who neglected Lazarus, as he lay outside the man’s gate. Jesus told His disciples “All people will know you’re my disciples if you have love one for another”. (John 13:35) HCSB
As people of faith who live and work in a world ever consumed by fear, it is, now more than ever, our time to stop and see who is lying outside our gates, asking for our crumbs. It is our time to show the love of Christ in tangible ways.
Many reading this might be like me, living in nice, and affluent small towns where the needs are not so apparent; it is easy to become encapsulated and insulated in our own cocoons of our work, church and family. However, in order to become the church, the living, breathing, collective body of Christ, we need to band together. In a time of division, it is time for those who name the name of Christ, to set down our fear and physically lift up our fellow mankind. In so doing, we cannot forget, nor forgo the importance of (appropriate) physical touch. A hug, handshake or touch on a shoulder, shows those who are hurting, you are valuable to me. It builds a connection, a bridge mightier than words alone.
The question then becomes what is “Love” and how do I live it like Jesus did? “Am I supposed to tell certain religious leaders who are creating a new form of slavery, they are wrong?” “Technically, we have hospitals and doctors for ‘healing” the sick…’ where does that leave me?”
Jesus Himself went against the grain and rules of the religious leaders of His day and He touched those who were dying from the inside out. So too can, and must we find those who are dying from the inside out; freely giving the salt and light which have been entrusted to our care. More than ever we need each other and the rest of the world needs to see a bearded Jewish man when they look into our eyes.
We must love freely, openly, meeting people where they are. We must view others like the wine of Cana, drawing out the best in them because of our genuine love for them. If I have not love, I am but a resounding gong. We need to set down our weapons of, labels, fear, snap judgements and wage peace one with another. Embracing their brokenness, while infusing them with His wholeness. However, we cannot do this, if we continue letting fear rule our faith.
In order for others to see Christ in us, we must love ourselves and our neighbors. We have been conditioned to embrace our brokenness, I am suggesting we let go of our limiting beliefs about our imperfections and start embracing our identities as whole, new creatures in Christ. When we claimed Him as Lord and savior of our lives, we invited Him to have dominion in our lives. In turn, He invites us to partake in communion or common union. Becoming one with Him and the Father, through the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. Because we have been given new life, we must now share it with our neighbors.
Sadly, it is those in the closest proximity, who are the most estranged from us. In virtually every community there are various opportunities to volunteer. In the workplace, we can try engaging with different co-workers, especially those in less desirable positions. By engaging with those outside of our comfort zone, and in the trenches, we will meet the real superheroes of any operation, as well as meeting some awesome people along the way.
Most of all, we must become missionaries within our neighborhoods. Yes, I mean those who live next door, and across the street. Often, when we think of a “missionary” the first thing that comes to our mind is Africa, and how we don’t want God to send us there.
For the record, no, I don’t mean every encounter we have one with another needs to be an overt evangelistic effort. Realistically, those overt efforts are usually less effective than simply befriending someone. In order for others to see Christ in us, we must see ourselves as the “pearl of great price the true value of ourselves, that we can in turn impart that same value to others.
Let us now focus in with a few practical ways to get to know and love our neighbors. Try hosting a small bonfire in the backyard complete with makings for s’mores. If fire is not your thing, try hosting a block party, or a community game night. Other, low key options include, inviting one another back into our homes. Knock on a different neighbors door once a month and ask them to come for popcorn and snacks. For something low maintenance and yet rewarding, send random gifts to your neighbors, highlighting an attribute of theirs. The list of possibilities is endless! These are just a few suggestions to get the creative juices flowing!