Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

It has not been as easy as I’d hoped to get my thoughts organized and typed out. In fact, the process has been one of the most mentally challenging things I have ever written. In getting it outlined, I found my head and heart drawn in several different directions, but through several bubble bath prayer sessions, I have come to realize that God has been drawing me out of my comfort zone for several years while I’m clinging with all my might to the last thread of excuses. Time to let go.

There are so many things I learned during the five days that my two oldest teenage daughters and I spent in New York City last month, and I’m sure I’ll be able to share more once I can get this out of my head. But those other lessons? They all nudged my mind one way or another toward one ultimate thought–the Great Commission.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Jesus began these “marching orders” by stating his authority to give it as an actual command. It’s not optional, and it was given not just to the disciples who were gathered together that day, but His disciples today as well. Now here’s where I have to get very personal; if I’m not working on fulfilling this command, but rather I’m relying on my contributions to one mission or another to do it for me … am I **actually** fulfilling my own mission, or am I committing a sin of omission by basically passing off a direct command of Jesus Christ?

I know, that was harsh. But maybe it’s time we get serious about our purpose as Christians as we go through life in this mission field of a fallen world. Are we actually doing our job, or are we just trying like mad to insulate ourselves from being affected by what’s around us? Of all the things the girls and I saw and experienced while in NYC, both good and not-so-good, there’s one thing we didn’t see–churches. Yeah, I know, we were coming from the heart of the super-tight genuine leather Bible belt of the deep South, where you will easily pass twenty church buildings while driving to worship on Sunday morning. That is kind of a culture shock! I’m sure they’re there somewhere, but we were looking! In the 46 miles of walking we did around Manhattan for five days, we saw ONE advertised meeting place. Just around the corner from one of our favorite cute coffee shops was Times Square Church, which describes itself as an interdenominational, come-as-you-are gathering of believers. No, I’m not counting St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It’s a tourist trap with a hefty price tag for a tour, and unless you’re a practicing Catholic, it’s just a pretty building.

One.

Oh, sure, there was also an oddly decorated RV known as the Mitzvah Tank, which is used as a mobile educational and outreach tool by Orthodox Jews to reach non observing or alienated Jews with a mini-synagogue, hoping to draw them out of the hustle and bustle of the world and reconnect them to their faith.

Did I go out of my way to look up churches in the area? Nope. I’ll admit it, we didn’t bother. We weren’t there on a weekend, so I wasn’t really “needing” to find a group of Christians to worship with. I will say this, though: God definitely met us in downtown New York City. He opened our eyes to many things we’d never have even considered before. God showed us beauty in the eyes, hands, and words of random New Yorkers. We received smiles, kind actions, and we had our days blessed by more people than we could count. We couldn’t help but love them. We connected with them. They became real to us; no longer obscure faces of heathens living in some God-forsaken cesspool of immorality, but real souls just trying to find their way and pass on joy.

There are several devotional songs that we have come to love that beg the Lord to open our eyes, break our hearts, and to show us Jesus. God did just that in the Big Apple–He showed us people. Hearts. Neighbors. Souls. And then He showed us the reality of what was available to minister to those souls. Precious little, compared to what the world has to offer to keep them away from Truth.

And yet … the Commission is still great. It still stands as a command for individual followers of Jesus. It doesn’t really on buildings, it isn’t restricted to organized mission teams. It’s a command for each one of us to be an ambassador of the Gospel of Christ. It is our job to always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)

Nearly two thousand years ago, three thousand people responded to the first Gospel sermon with obedience, in just one Day! For the first time in history, the risen Savior gave hope to the world. People today still need hope. It’s what will draw them out of the world and into Christ.

Of course, it’s wonderful to share fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, but that’s not our mission. Our business is to be a neighbor like the”good Samaritan” was. Isn’t that what Jesus told the lawyers who tried to entrap Him?

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