Seeing the People Around You

are_you_okI previously shared that I recently started divinity school. One of the required classes is on evangelism. I felt heavily convicted by a teaching in the first week about paying attention to the people around you.

The Biblical text we discussed is about the woman at the well. The overall focus was that Jesus noticed her. He went somewhere that Jews didn’t go (Samaria) and talked to a woman who Jews didn’t talk with (a woman of ill repute). Not only did he talk to her, but he saw her. He looked her in the eye and even suggested they share the same cup, hence her comment about Jesus having nothing to draw water with – they would have had to share her bucket to share a drink. Meanwhile, the disciples were quite uncomfortable being in Samaria at all, much less the idea of talking with this woman.

The speaker then asked how many people we pass by as we go about our day that we do not notice. We are all in our own little worlds, focused on the busyness of our own lives without “seeing” the people around us – those we pass on the street, who are sitting next to us in restaurants, or even our neighbors as we check the mailbox. God notices all of them. Not only does He notice them, but He loves them!

When did we, as a Church, stop paying attention to the people around us? When did we start putting in our earbuds and blasting our Christian music while not even seeing the hurt on the faces of those we pass as we exercise?

Ever since I listened to that lecture, I have become more mindful of simply noticing the people around me – not necessarily doing anything differently … just noticing that they exist.

I admit that I am guilty of failing to see those around me when I go about my day. I lead a busy life – I work a full-time time, am earning a master’s degree in Christian Ministry, have a husband and special needs teenager, lead a Bible study, and write this blog. That does not leave me much time for anything else. However…God sees those around me who are hurting and need a smile, kind word, or other act of compassion. How can I join God in what He is doing around me if I don’t pay attention and look for His activity?

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking at you and asking, “Are you OK?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Obedience Problem = Love Problem

I have shared previously that I am working through Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God , authored by Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby, and Claude King. One concept I am pondering is the repeated assertion that…

If you have an obedience problem, you have a love problem.” ~ Experiencing God

The authors cite multiple Bible verses to support this statement, including the following:

If you love me, keep my commands.” ~ John 14:15

Throughout the Bible, obedience and love for God are intertwined. If you love God, you’ll do what He says to do. If you don’t do what God says to do, that’s evidence of a lack of love for Him. In our humanity, we try to make things more complex, but the Bible says it’s really that simple: If you love God, you’ll do what He says to do. If you don’t love God, you won’t. And that’s why the authors says that if you have a problem with obeying God, then you have an issue with loving God.

Like most people, I struggle with obedience. At the end of the day, I want to do what looks good to me. However, as I have been pondering with my series on the enormity of God, I have a limited perspective, so what I view as “good” or “bad” from my teeny tiny sliver of space and time might be very off-base from the perspective of everywhere and “everywhen.” Note that I have included no mention of love in my explanation for my desire to do things the way that look good to me.

To see the connection between obedience and love, I must believe that God’s Word is true – that my willingness to obey God reflects my love for Him while my refusal to obey Him reveals my lack of love. From my teeny tiny sliver in space and time, I don’t see that connection, but the Bible says it is true. However, I do see that doing what **I** want keeps me focused on myself rather than on God, which does point to a lack of love.

While I might not fully grasp the connection between love and obedience, I have found that it’s easier to obey God out of a motivation of love. For example, when I was in the early stages of forgiving my child abusers, I prayed, “I hate my abusers, but I love you more. Help me forgive them out of love for You.” When I focus on my love for God rather than on myself, I find it much easier to obey Him.

Cover of Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God. Courtesy Amazon.

Servant Evangelism

I recently read the book, Servant Evangelism: Showing and Sharing Good News, and was pleasantly surprised. Let me start by making a confession – the word “evangelism” gives me the heebie jeebies. I envision people standing on street corners waving their Bibles around, asking me if I’m “saved,” and threatening me with the fires of hell if I am not. While I am sure that many of the people who do this mean well, it’s a real turnoff to me. My decision to surrender my life to Christ was a HUGE turning point that wasn’t going to happen because someone “threatened” me while I was walking down the street.

Servant evangelism is a very different form of evangelism. In a nutshell, it combines random acts of kindness with sharing God’s love. As an example, hold a free car wash and refuse to accept donations. When people ask why, say, “God has been so good to me that I want to pay it forward” … or something else that communicates that your love for God is your motivation for the random act of kindness. Another example is giving out free light bulbs with the message, “For more light, visit our church” affixed to the box.

I actually saw this in action when I was visiting the beach. I was walking for exercise past a church during worship service hours, and people were giving away free bottles of water with a verse about Jesus being the living water and the church’s name and address on a label on the bottle. There was no “sell” involved. They didn’t want money for the water bottles, and they did not try to make me feel guilty for exercising instead of being in church. If I had asked about God, I’m sure they would have been happy to share with me, but I simply said thank you and continued pushing my son in his stroller, and they did not attempt to detain me.

The beauty of this form of evangelism is that it meets people where they are. If God has already been softening someone’s heart, this provides a wonderful opportunity for that person to ask questions about your faith. However, if someone’s heart is not in a place to “hear the good news,” it simply plants a seed. Perhaps years later, when God starts drawing the person to Himself, s/he will remember receiving that free bottle of water and visit that church.

I know that the Great Commission applies to me, just as it does to all Christians, but I have always been leery about “Bible thumping” as a means to do it. I love the simplicity of the idea of servant evangelism, which meets people right where they are, shining God’s love into people’s lives without a “hard sell.”

[Graphic: Cover of the book, Servant Evangelism: Showing and Sharing Good News. Courtesy Amazon.]