Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Loving a Neighbor

Christ’s call to love your neighbor as you love yourself is as simple as it is difficult.  
Understanding Jesus’ love for me, and seeing the way that he completely expended himself in order to communicate that love  compels me to obey his command.  His Holy Spirit inspires me to strive after his glorious ideals, and helps me to follow after him.  But it is a struggle for sure. 

At a practical level, one thing that we have done here in Santa Fe, is plug in to a church that embraces Jesus’ mission.  And, although there are other churches here that exalt Jesus, we love BlazeChristian Fellowship because it’s a place we can bring our neighbors and invite our friends and family to.  It’s a cool church that loves this city and it’s a place where outsiders are welcome. 

I have also prayed for opportunities to actively love my neighbors and asked God to help me engage them with the truths of his Gospel.  Over the past few months, I’ve had some amazing interactions.

But, one conversation leaves me haunted.  One of them leaves me asking myself: Did I love my neighbor well enough?

I met my parents neighbor a few years ago when my brother and I went over to introduce ourselves and chat.  He was a cool guy about 4 years younger than I am.   He and his buddies were really into working on, modifying and building rat rods, 4 Wheel drive trucks, rock crawler jeeps and stuff like that.  Their large corner lot looked like a practical junk yard full of car parts, axles, wheels, trailers and tools.  In the summer time there would almost always be 4 or 5 guys in their garage hanging out, welding, turning wrenches, drinking beers and chain smoking all day and into the night. 

Shortly after meeting him, I began praying for him.  (not as often as I should have….not too consistently)   He was  artistic and creative guy who was as friendly and helpful as he was profane.  But the more I got to know him the more excited I would get thinking about how cool it would be if he gave his life to Jesus.

Six weeks ago I went down the street to borrow a tool and hang out for a bit.  He looked tired and as we hung out he started coughing and I remarked that it might be a good time to quit smoking!  He told me that he actually had a tumor in a his lung.  It wasn’t cancerous, but it was growing.   He indicated that he was getting some tests done and was trying to figure out the finances of it all.

A couple weeks later, I went over again.  In just a few weeks, he had lost weight and he wasn’t getting out too much.  He wasn’t working and I could tell things were pretty serious.  It was the middle of the day and we sat down at his table.  His kitchen counter top was full of medical paper work I told him how I’d been praying for him.  We talked about illness and how it’s a result of Sin and the fall.  I told him about my dad and about J.C.Ryles words regarding God’s purposes in sickness.  I asked him about his spiritual beliefs. 

He told me he had a Bible, but reading it was somewhat “depressing” to him.  He’d grown up in the Catholic church, but he looked at me and said “basically, I believe in myself.”  He talked about staying positive, relying on what’s inside, depending on yourself and fighting hard.   I told him, that I believed that sickness does a good job of  revealing our frailty and weakness and self confidence –especially during illness is not able to truly bring hope.  God is our strength and we talked about my dad’s faith in Jesus and the true peace that he experienced because he trusted in God.  Not himself. 

It was good.  We talked about surgical options, doctor’s opinions and other aspects of life.  But, I felt truly burdened for him.  I hoped as I left that by God’s power, the mention of God’s might, would provoke him to open his Bible and understand truth.  He didn’t seem open to Jesus, and was full of misconceptions.  Above all, he was trusting in the wrong thing.  I left praying that God would use his sickness to change him and draw him to himself. 

I wanted to go over again.  I wanted to continue our conversation.  I prayed that God would work thru his suffering. 

Last Tuesday, our neighbor died.  I could not believe it.  He had plummeted so fast and I thought he had more time. 

Though we’d talked of God in our last conversation, I really don’t have much to be encouraged about.  I had hoped we’d have at least one more talk before I left town.  I wondered if I should have pressed him harder, and wished I had tried more intensely to convey to him how worthless it is to rely on self instead of Jesus.  I’d mentioned sin, but should I have said more about  his personal sin?  I really didn’t feel like we got to hammer on our utter need for a savior.   In addition.  I cared about him, and I wondered and hoped that he felt cared for during his last days.  He had many friends, and I was basically still an acquaintance.  But, did I show Christ’s concern for his life thru my actions?  I really wish I would have visited him more in those last two weeks! 

Life was busy.  But in the end, I thought he had more time.  Everyone did I think. 

I arrived at his house about 10 minutes after he passed and it was thoroughly sad.  I was concerned for his soul, and so our grief for him has been lacking hope.   As  when he was alive, upon his death, his house was a hub of masculine energy.  The street was lined with trucks and guys were everywhere!    It would have been so glorious if it was all transformed by the Gospel.  If he had come to Christ, he could have been a witness to many, many men… who would typically be reluctant to set foot in a church.

Stephanie and I felt like satan was victorious in his death.  And we mourn the fact that we didn’t have more time to talk with him about Jesus and that he wasn’t able to shine as a witness for Jesus.   He will be missed by us, and by many, many more.   And we will pray for guidance and strength to love our neighbors well.  

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