I recently listened to a sermon by Tim Keller called Neighbors.
Keller speaks extensively on the topic of gospel neighboring, and has really challenged me over the last two years with my views of what it means to be a Christian who loves God and loves neighbors as ourselves.
Keller defines gospel neighboring as, “Sacrificially meeting the needs of those around them“.
What has struck me most is my inconsistency in what I say compared to what I do. Maybe you can relate. Out of one side of our mouths we give God praise, say we are Christians who love others, and mention that we will surrender all that we have for Him.
But, out of the other side of our mouths, we are all too often internally focused, consumed with our own little kingdoms, and blatantly selfish.
Keller often speaks about our idols – the things in our lives that we treasure more than Christ himself. This can be money, time, family, possessions, fame, career advancement, hobbies or any number of other good things that we turn into ultimate things.
Money can become our idol pretty easily if we don’t proactively fight against it. So how do we engage in battle to keep money from being our idol?
Simple – we become better gospel neighbors. By getting the focus off ourselves, and on to other people, we have a much greater chance of stopping any idol dead in its tracks. Here’s what I mean:
Gospel Neighboring Keeps Us From Being Internally Focused
We cannot sacrificially meet the needs of others around us without understanding those needs. In other words, we must proactively and consciously seek the needs of others. This helps us get our focus off ourselves.
When I am more consumed with meeting the needs of others, I naturally am less consumed with my own needs (or wants).
Gospel Neighboring Keeps Us Humble
One of the major things that keeps us from helping others more sacrificially is the fact that we are full of pride. Our arrogance limits our ability to perceive and meet the needs of others.
One way to nip pride in the bud is to start helping others sacrificially. When we help others who are less fortunate than ourselves, it’s a humbling experience. When we realize that everything we have is a result of God’s grace, it frees us up to use our money and possessions to store up heavenly treasure.
Gospel Neighboring Points Ourselves and Others to the One Who Neighbored Us
Meeting people’s needs is a radical way to live. It’s different than the majority of the world. Isn’t that how Jesus told us to live? Certainly Jesus modeled it.
Jesus gave up all the riches and comfort of heaven to come to earth and take on human flesh as a baby. He grew to be a man who faced temptation, hunger, and a wide range of emotions that we all feel. He became a neighbor to us so that we could be reconciled back to our Creator – to God himself.
Jesus met people’s physical needs while also meeting spiritual needs. He came to proclaim good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to the captives, to recover sight for the blind, free the oppressed, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19).
And of course, Jesus sacrificially met our greatest need by dying the death that we deserved to die. He gave himself, the ultimate sacrifice so that we could restored to God.
Being a gospel neighbor points us to Jesus, the perfect and ultimate neighbor. It also points others to Jesus as they see our costly sacrifice and as we tell them about our motivation for living.
Tim Keller says it this way, “Meet people’s concrete needs with such costliness and sacrificiality that people will want to hear the gospel because what you’re doing is so unexplainable.”
Radical, costly sacrifice is so different in a world that is consumed with itself that people will wonder why you do what you do, which gives you a tremendous opportunity for gospel messaging – urging others to believe in the gospel.
How about you? How are you doing with being a radical, gospel neighbor?
What things do you need to change in order to become a better gospel neighbor?