We are all familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10:25-37. But have we considered what it means for our own lives? With the world coming to our backdoor, we are daily faced with the question, “And who is my neighbor?” American culture looks drastically different than it did even a decade ago. Immigrants from across the globe, new ideologies, and new generations have changed the complexion of our culture. With the influx of new cultures coming into our states, cities, towns, neighborhoods, and communities how can we better reach the people in our hometowns? Living cross-culturally can open your eyes to what it means to be a neighbor and offer you wisdom on how to reach people with the love of Christ, whether they are your local all-American kid or someone who just came to America for the first time.
From my own experience living abroad, senses are heightened to new levels when you live cross-culturally. You watch people more closely as you try to learn the culture. You pay closer attention to where you walk and when. Ultimately, you look for every opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus. You understand that people are different, and you do everything you can to reach them with the gospel. Oftentimes, though, we view overseas as the “front lines” and we neglect the war that is being waged here in America, even in our own homes. We need to be more aware in our hometowns, living as if we are on high alert, because we are. Everywhere you go is a “front line” — a place that needs the gospel to redeem it from brokenness and sin.
Unfortunately, we think about reaching our home culture, we relax, forgetting that people are different here as well. We view it as a sort of safe place, as if the devil can’t attack. The familiarity of home lulls us into a cultural and spiritual slumber.
So how do we awaken ourselves to reach our neighbors here? How can we stoke the fires of our faith so that we are aware of the divine opportunities to share the gospel with our neighbors?
Here are three steps I learned from living abroad which can help us reach our neighbors here with the gospel:
Whether you are walking through the store, coming home after a long day of work or just out with friends, you must be aware of people’s spiritual needs and possible opportunities to share the gospel.
I must admit that I am not always aware of the spiritual darkness around me. We must develop this awareness and actively pray that the Lord would grant us eyes to see needs. When we begin to see needs, the Lord can begin to stir compassion in our souls. So when you are out and about begin praying that God will open your eyes to situations around you.
It’s one thing to see a need, but to be moved into compassion is grace from God. Just as in Matthew 9:36 where Jesus saw the crowds and had compassion on them, we too should follow likewise. Compassion is defined as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”
Not only must we see the distress, but we must also have a yearning — a gut reaction — that drives us to do something about the pain.
Compassion is what leads us to speak up and share the beautiful, life-giving message of the cross. Without eyes to see and a heart that cares, we will never take action. How are you putting into practice the compassion you feel? Are you putting it into practice? When you see injustice is your reaction to hide or to act? Put your hands to work to the glory of God.
Don’t be like the lawyer in Luke 10 who attempts to avoid the responsibility of speaking up by asking “And who is my neighbor?” To keep the gospel to yourself is a great injustice. Reflect upon your life to see the ways you have fallen short and ask the Lord, our greatest neighbor, to give you eyes to see needs, to have compassion to move you, and mercy to act so that we can bring light to this dark world.
Ultimately, show mercy — and there you will find yourself being a neighbor.