“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy..” Philippians 1:3
In the Part 3 of of our Philippians series, James spoke about how we, as the church, can love our neighbors well. Philippians 1:3 showed us that Paul’s thankfulness is because his friends are experiencing the same gospel that he lives by and loves. Likewise, the church is joyful when others are invited in to experience the felt love of God. When we love our neighbors, we invite them into the same joyful experience of the community and friendship we find in a church centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Donna Rae Woods has a story that walks through this joy of loving her neighbor within her own community. She saw a new family move in to her neighborhood and offered them dinner and a friendly welcome. Donna Rae’s story of inviting her neighbor to her Community Group dinner demonstrates the three aspects of loving our neighbors that James sermon pointed out.
1. Loving your neighbor is sometimes uncomfortable
Even with an outgoing personality, walking up to a home that is new and unfamiliar is an uncomfortable experience that insists upon you stepping out on faith. It takes courage to present yourself to someone new. Donna Rae welcomed a new family into the neighborhood by offering to bring them home food from the restaurant they were having dinner at, and then invited them to their Community Group dinner the following night. The family came to the community group dinner, where they were able to share in the joyful experience of friendship through the extension of the church in the community group setting.
2. Loving your neighbor involved meeting their physical needs
The moving in process can be an overwhelming experience, filled with new unknowns. There is a need that must be met through warm welcomes and invitations to become a part of the neighborhood. Donna Rae met this need, but also went further into their lives. She met the needs of hunger by offering food to the family, put them in touch with people to cut their grass, and helped them learn the ins and outs of attending a UGA game. These are just a few of the tangible, physical needs that can be found and met when we love our neighbors well.
3. Loving your neighbor always costs something
The biggest cost of loving your neighbor is time. It takes time to offer more than a smile and wave of welcome to a neighbor. It takes time to bring them food and time to listen to their background and find out what ways you can offer help. Donna Rae’s story shows that while it does take extra time and effort, the joy that comes from spending time with people is well worth the cost.
As Donna Rae’s story shows, having a heart postured towards hospitality and openness is one tangible way for us to love those around us. Her story is one that is relatable to that of Paul’s in which through the courage and freedom found in the Gospel, we are able to celebrate when others are welcomed into our home and get a glimpse of what the body of Christ looks like. As we celebrate with Donna Rae, let us also be encouraged to love our neighbors with the same love of Christ that we are convinced of and put our confidence in.