Jesus reminds us that real, everyday life can be summarized as love for God and for neighbor. God in his wisdom and providence has put the particular people around us that he intends for us to care for. And while there is something familiar about this notion of loving people, we've learned as a church that all of us struggle to go about this task with clarity and confidence.
So with the notion that principles are strengthened by sound practice, we are learning to live out the principle of loving our neighbor by implementing a practice we call BLESS:
- B - Begin with prayer
- L - Listen
- E - Eat
- S - Serve
- S - Share
I have a list of people around me that I pray for and that's as far as it gets, most often because I don't have a lot of opportunity for relational contact (i.e., my barista at Starbucks on Wednesday, the checkout guy at Publix who seems to really enjoy his work).
But I am finding that I usually have the opportunity to take things one step further by asking questions and Listening to what people have to say. I may not know everything about Joe the Barber but I know something. I know that one of my neighbors is struggling with an aging mother. Slowing down and asking questions that go beyond a perfunctory 'how are you' go a long way in reminding people that they matter. Don't underestimate the small ways that God's kingdom breaks through.
The next step you might take is to Eat - grabbing a meal or a drink with someone that you're getting to know. We're getting a bit down the funnel now: I pray for a lot of people and take time to ask questions and listen when I can; it's when there's a sense of connection that I'm willing to see if someone wants to take the time to talk more over a meal, coffee, drinks after work. I find this is usually a place to continue conversations we've already started in an environment that's comfortable and affords more time. Sometimes the conversation turns to things that are explicitly spiritual; most of the time we're still talking about common interests and/or everyday life. If God's kingdom infiltrates every sphere of life, your conversation about sports or politics or class projects or your kids' schedules counts. Congratulations on caring enough about your friend to carve out time to love them like Jesus!
Again, I find this to be a pattern of life for our relationships with both Christians and non-Christians. It brings intentionality to all of our relationships and as someone who struggles with stereotypical evangelism, this makes it possible to believe that God can use me to help people get close to Jesus.
Next Week - Serving and Sharing