About 7:30 p.m., there was a loud banging on our front door. Eloise went to see who it was and found Dottie standing at the door sobbing uncontrollably. “Ken’s gone!” she blurted out. Eloise called me and we immediately tried to comfort our distraught neighbour who was weeping with loud, convulsive gasps. “He just died,” Dottie said, “He’s gone.”
Ken was a Jewish man who lived just one apartment away from us. We have been neighbours for ten years with Ken and Dottie. Eloise and I befriended them both, and Ken was always kind and pleasant. When we first met, Ken asked me what I did and I told him I helped poor people in Africa, Asia and Latin America who lived on $2 or less a day. We teach them how to grow gardens, how to care for chickens, goats and pigs, and how to earn enough money to be able to send their children to school.
He was intrigued and asked me how we got money to do that.
I told him that we also shared Jesus, the hope of all the world, with the poor families, and people who love Jesus donated money so we could do this work. It boggled his mind. He couldn’t grasp it.
I also gave Ken a simple Gospel pamphlet that I had written. Although he was impressed that I had written it, he didn’t seem interested in its message. Over the years, there were other opportunities to share the love of Jesus, but my neighbour Ken only wanted to be friends. He didn’t want to know about Jesus, our Messiah and Saviour. He rejected his message of love, forgiveness and hope, and today he is profoundly suffering because of that decision.
Four other neighbours came out of their apartments when they heard Dottie wailing.
I put my arm around her and held her as she shook and cried. I told everyone I was going to pray for Dottie, and I prayed that the Lord would give her comfort and peace. I asked the Lord to console and encourage her in her sadness and loss. I prayed that Jesus would be right beside her in the days ahead. As a good neighbour, I wanted Dottie to know Jesus could help in her overwhelming grief. A hardened neighbour lady who wants nothing to do with Jesus stood there sneering as I prayed.
One day a man came to Jesus and asked, “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus told a story that gave him the answer. A Jewish man was in desperate need because he had been attacked by bandits. A hated Samaritan came by, had compassion on him, and stopped to help. He bandaged the man’s wounds and took him to an inn for further care. The despised Samaritan was a true neighbour to the beaten man.
Who is my neighbour?
The people living on your street or in your apartment building are certainly neighbours. Your colleagues at work are neighbours.
The indigenous people are our neighbours. We also have near neighbours for whom we have a special responsibility. Papua New Guinea (8 million people), Indonesia (271 million), Vietnam (96 million), Cambodia (16 million), Laos (7 million), Singapore (5 million), Malaysia (32 million), Thailand (69 million), Myanmar (54 million), The Philippines (108 million), and China (1.435 billion) are all our close neighbours.
In fact, all the people of the world are our neighbours because Jesus sent us to bring the Gospel to every person. In a real sense, our neighbours are all the 7.6 billion people in the world today.
It is absolutely impossible for you to reach even a fraction of these people. But you can have a plan that involves you in bringing the Gospel to your neighbours at home and to some neighbours around the world.
Here are two suggestions for how you can love your neighbor:
1. Choose the twenty houses closest to where you live and get to know those people so you can share the hope of the Gospel with them.
When Eloise and I did this, we plotted the houses on a map and deliberately walked around getting to know the people. We gathered information about them and began praying that the Lord would open doors. The man across the street was an airline pilot and an atheist. Next to him was an older couple who cared for an elderly mother and they were religious but didn’t know Jesus personally. In the house to our left was a woman who had been to Sunday school as a child and knew a little about Jesus. We got to know these people, and all the others in the twenty houses. Over eighteen years we saw people trust Christ in fourteen of those homes. In some, whole families committed to Christ.
2. Choose one country and make it your focus as you become a neighbour to them.
I have some friends in Victoria who have taken a special interest in Haiti by gathering information, pouring prayer into people there, and giving every month to help those poor families get clean water and the life-changing message of the Gospel. They are neighbours to Haitians. I have another friend in Queensland who is committed to his neighbours in Kenya. He provides chickens to poor families, and as a result, hundreds have trusted Christ and broken the cycle of poverty. Another supporter has built a school in Zambia and poor children are experiencing life-changing education that will bring them transformation and hope. Her neighbours are Zambians.
It is a deliberate commitment that we must all make to reach neighbours both at home and across the world so they don’t die without the forgiveness of their sins, like my neighbour in our apartment building. You can make a profound difference in the lives of many people as you pray, give and share the hope of the Gospel with your neighbours.
Jesus, Paul and James all have the same message: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”