Jesus loved God, His Father, and His neighbors—the Greatest Commandment—perfectly. Have you ever considered this thought? If so, it changes how you and I read the Gospel accounts. A number of hallmarks to Jesus’ earthly ministry stand out. Four of these hallmarks I find incredibly important to loving our actual neighbors today.
The first is Jesus’ prayer life. On more than one occasion we find Him slipping away to pray by Himself, sometimes spending an entire night in prayer on an isolated mountaintop.
The second is Jesus’ habit of doing things only where He observed the Father already at work. In fact, Jesus went so far as to claim that He was unable to do anything, anywhere, on His own.
. . . the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19 NASB).
The third is Jesus’ compassion for people. On many occasions the Gospel writers make reference to Jesus seeing the people gathered around Him, and feeling deep compassion for their needs.
The fourth hallmark is the utter simplicity with which our Lord touched the lives of so many people. He performed great miracles, yet said little. To the man who had lain by the pool of Bethesda for 38 years, Jesus simply asked, “Do you wish to get well?” And after taking the time to listen to the man’s story, our Lord’s command was equally as simple: “Arise, take up your pallet, and walk.”
I call your attention to these four hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry for a couple of reasons. The first is because I deem them important for us to learn if we are truly serious about being obedient to the Great Commandment and loving our neighbors. The second is because my friend David Sanford touches upon each of these hallmarks quite uniquely in his new book, Loving Your Neighbor: Surprise! It’s Not What You Think.
In surprising ways, David touches upon the importance of praying for those God places around us. He emphasizes the significance of carefully observing our neighbors, waiting for evidence to manifest that the Lord is at work in their lives. He continues by stressing the weightiness of positioning ourselves in that place of vulnerability where we can feel compassion for our neighbors. And in a wonderful, surprising twist, he applies a valuable lesson from Jesus’ encounter with the man at the pool by exhorting us to speak little, and to listen much. It is counterintuitive for most us, but it allows hearts to be unlocked and opportunities to abound.
I doubt your encounters will be anything like David’s, but this I know: Your encounters will be uniquely yours, and the lessons David has to offer you will be invaluable as you pursue our Lord’s great command to love your neighbors.
As disciples of Jesus, we are unique from all other human beings. Our willingness to submit to His sovereignty results in the Father placing His Holy Spirit within us. Thus, wherever we go, whomever we encounter, the Holy Spirit of God goes with us.
An encounter with one of our neighbors might make us feel awkward or even scare us to death. Yet we need to remind ourselves that the encounter was no doubt authorized and orchestrated by the Spirit. Additionally, and in accordance with His promise, Jesus will work through each of us in His effort to woo our neighbors into His Father’s Kingdom.
I strongly suggest that you read my friend David’s book as one might a devotional. Stop at regular intervals and meditate on what you have just read. Ruminate on the insights David has to offer as though they were something good to digest slowly. And don’t worry if you disagree here or there. Press through to the end. You will be glad you did!
– Lynn Cory, Neighborhood Initiative
-BONUS: Readers of this blog can receive a free .pdf copy of David Sanford’s book by sending a quick email note to LvYrNeighborSurprise@gmail.com