Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. – Isaiah 1:17
Neglect – the word makes us cringe. If not, then it might do us well to examine our lives once again in the reflection of God’s Word. He is so clear in His teaching of how we are to live. I am so thankful for that because my tendency is to be fuzzy-boundaried – spreading myself too thin, giving precious little to anyone, and then retreating exhausted into the comfy fortress of my home sweet home.
Would you walk with me through this quick journey of sorting out what it is to NOT be neglectful? The one area I don’t intend to focus on is neglect of self – either body or soul. My sense is that when we lean into the urging of God’s Spirit in ministering to others, our own lives are so altered that we are the ones most benefitted by Him (Luke 6:38).
To not be neglectful is to incline ourselves, to lean in, to carry through, to attend, to be intentional, to purpose to:
1) Love* the Lord our God with all our heart. – The Great Commandment
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.” – Matthew 22:36-38
When our lives are infused by our love for God, we begin our day with Him and end our day with Him. As He speaks to us through His Word, the Spirit, the church, and our circumstances, we become more and more in tune with Who He is and how He is working in us and around us. It’s not ordering our lives as “God, then, family, then job” – it is all God – at the center and permeating all of life. Let’s savor that a moment…all God.
2) Love* your neighbor as yourself. – 2nd Part of the Great Commandment
“And the second [great commandment] is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:39-40
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” “Who is my brother?” “Who is my neighbor?” – these questions take us to the heart of NOT being neglectful. We want to choose who this neighbor is. We want to be done when we’ve taken care of “our responsibilities” – our family, our school debt, our house payment. How does that make a Christ-follower any different than a decent law-abiding atheist? God doesn’t define “neighbor” for us because He holds onto the right (as righteous, holy, loving God ) of directing our attention to those for whom He will intervene through us…through us. It could be our own parents or children or it could be that friend who continues to struggle with addiction. Or it could be Bonno, the soon-to-be-orphan son of a beautiful South African mother dying of AIDS.
We, as God’s children, are to give God the freedom to love our neighbors through us, in whatever way He chooses… Why this is uncomfortable and convicting is a testament to our journey of being transformed into the image of Christ. What joy He means us to have in being His instruments of peace and redemption. [I am all kinds of prickly over this, myself. Praying for my own undoneness in this.]
3) Love* the Church
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. – Hebrews 10:23-25
The church is flawed because it’s peopled by folks like us. Does it mean we get to desert it? Don’t need an answer for what the Word already states definitively. We’ve all heard the lament “I don’t go to church because it’s full of hypocrites.” What better place for us (hypocrites) to be?! It saddens my heart at how people have been hurt by “church folks”. I have had that experience myself. Church folks do not a church make. Church is the Body of Christ – the people of God – we’re His and on His mission until He takes us Home. If we are followers of Christ we don’t get to step away from His church. We need each other in very real, concrete, daily ways. There are no spectators in the Body of Christ, no second-string Christians, no one on the bench. God means us to be all-in, not just on Sunday, but every day – life on life, living Christ with each other and in our circles of influence. It’s messy, and uncomfortable, and other-worldly beautiful…when we wholly follow Christ together.
4) Love* the Nations – Fulfilling the Great Commission
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. – Matthew 28:16-20
The nations have come to us. Still, there are peoples who will never be near enough to the Gospel message unless someone takes it to them. Through both demonstration and proclamation. We can’t leave this only to some elite group of trained vocational Christians. We are all called to fulfill the Great Commission. Every one of us is commanded to go to our neighbors and to the nations. How does that work? By a daily personal surrender and a Holy Spirit-driven intentionality believing that He will open doors as we step up and grip the handles. By truly loving – in word and deed – neighbors and nations. Here in this post-Christian era we find ourselves, more and more of the church are taking seriously our role in fulfilling the vision Christ gave us in His command: “a multitude from every language, people, tribe and nation worshipping our Lord Jesus Christ” (Revelation 7:9). The Great Commission is not just for pastors or overseas Christian workers – it’s meant for all of us – health care workers, engineers, teachers, stay-at-home moms, store clerks, technicians, students, and retirees…in the marketplace, wherever we are.
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” – Matthew 9:35-38
Jesus doesn’t call us to save the world…He calls us to respond to Him in obedience, one moment at a time, one life at a time…as we take Him at His word, He saves a world.
*Love – used in the fullest sense of that word – the Jesus sense of that word – not in the colloquial sense of that word – “Of course, I love my church, addict brother-in-law, controlling boss, lazy co-worker, Muslim neighbor…but…”
A Neglected Grace – Family Worship – May I add Household Worship for Friends Who Share Housing?