OK. So it’s getting kind of heavy around here with all this talk of genocide and judgement, isn’t it? Time to mix things up a bit!
Tim Keller has an excellent word on loving your neighbourhood (which is equally applicable to your campus/workplace, regular pub trivia haunt or other ‘community hub’). Let me lay it on you:
A missional … group is not necessarily one that is doing some kind of specific evangelism program (though that is to be recommended). Rather, its members love the city and their specific neighbourhood and talk positively about them. They speak in language that is not filled with pious, tribal, or technical terms and phrases, nor in disdainful and embattled language. In their Bible study, they apply the gospel to the core concerns and stories of the culture. They are obviously interested in and engaged with the literature, art, and thought of the surrounding culture and can discuss it appreciatively yet critically. They exhibit deep concern for the poor, generosity with their money, purity and respect towards the opposite sex, and humility towards people of other races and cultures. They do not put down or diminish other Christians and churches.
Although, it may be easier said than done! For example, I’ve noticed how often embattled language slips in under the radar and infiltrates my habits of speech.
Not that I typically speak as though my neighbourhood and friends are ‘going to hell in a handbasket’. But I do often find myself reflecting on biblical calls to turn away from sin in terms of what ‘they’ need to do, what sins people who aren’t Christian would have to repent of if they were to embrace Christ. Likewise, my prayers sometimes stray in the direction of thanking God that ‘we’ know him and are walking in the light (doubtless because I’m thankful that he’s graciously delivered us from our ignorance and darkness).
I want to strive for more objectivity in my talk about God’s work — both as it benefits us and as it challenges sinful attitudes and patterns of behaviour. I want my habits of speech to emphasise him and what he’s done (or is doing), instead of always drawing lines between ‘us’ and ‘them’. For me, this is where loving my neighbourhood needs to start.