This month we celebrate the fact that the Son of God came to earth in the person of Jesus. He lived a perfect life, died on the cross for the sins of His people, and was raised from the dead by God. As we come to Jesus asking forgiveness of our sins and trusting in His payment for our sins, our relationship with Him and God the Father is restored. We are accepted by God because of Jesus’ righteousness being credited to us through faith in Him. Paul put it this way in II Corinthians 5:21, “He [God the Father] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him [Jesus].”
In a very real way, we can say that Christianity is all about relationships. In order to be a Christian, one must have a relationship with Jesus Christ. To have your relationship with God restored, you must have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus said that if you love Him, you will keep His commandments (John 14:15; 15:14). When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:34-40), He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Then Jesus followed up with the second greatest commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Relationship to God and relationship with your neighbor are the greatest commandments in the Bible.
Paul in II Corinthians 5:18-20 tells us that God’s purpose is for us to reach our neighbors with the gospel. He writes, “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” To love our neighbors well and be obedient to God’s directive, we must love them enough to share the hope of the gospel with them.
In their book The Art of Neighboring, authors Pathak and Runyon quote Vicky Reier, the assistant city manager of Arvada, Colorado, stating, “From the city’s perspective, there isn’t a noticeable difference in how Christians and non-Christians neighbor in our community (pg. 20). If this is true in Arvada, CO, could it also be true in Wichita, KS, or wherever you live? So how do we go about solving this problem? The authors suggest that, “We can begin by noticing that we have neighbors, people who at the moment are nameless and faceless” (pg.34). These are people we are called to love by God. They are our literal neighbors. The authors go on to say, “But we do know this about love: to love someone, it helps to actually know their name” (pg. 40).
It is at this time of year that we are planning our summers. I encourage you to think about how you are going to incorporate your neighbors into your summer plans. We are called to love them and to be ambassadors for Christ. One has to know his neighbors in order to minister the gospel well to them. As we celebrate Easter and the grace given to us at the cross, may we think about how to be agents of God’s grace to our neighbors this summer.