Health is on our minds at AFM! Five weeks ago we started an eight-week health challenge. Our office divided into four teams that work together to gain points by exercising, eating healthfully and spending time with God. The challenge was announced in a staff meeting. Afterward, as I was settling into my cubicle to start the day’s work, a colleague stopped by and joked good-naturedly about how his team was going to beat mine. I chuckled at his competitive spirit, and we continued with our work day.
My colleague was joking about something relatively inconsequential. But the attitude he was joking about is a common one. We’re all inundated by stories about how different we are from others, about how our teams are special, correct or superior. We constantly hear from people who blame minority groups or elites for the world’s problems. Friends share posts on Facebook about politics and social movements, and Twitter is the angriest place on the Internet.
My point isn’t to critique any of the stories we tell ourselves about our groups, but rather to ask the question: How should we as Christians respond to a fragmenting world? How should we engage with people who espouse isolating rhetoric and violent action?
There are libraries full of tomes on Christians’ social responsibilities, but very little of that writing comes directly from Jesus whose attitude toward others was very straightforward. In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus told His audience to love their neighbors. Eager to avoid loving too broadly or unconditionally, the audience asked who those neighbors were. Instead of giving a clear “thus saith the Lord,” Jesus told a story about a Samaritan man whom most in the audience would have looked down upon or even hated, and how a member of their group went out of his way to love that man. Then Jesus asked rhetorically, “Who was the despised man’s neighbor?”
His point was obvious: we should treat everyone—even those who make us uncomfortable—as neighbors.
That’s the attitude AFM’s missionaries take. They travel to distant lands to minister to Muslim, Hindu and atheist children of God who haven’t yet heard the good news of their adoption into His family. Those missionaries build relationships that make their neighbors’ lives better, and eventually they share the exciting news that we all have a heavenly Father who loves us “with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3).
I invite you to consider supporting AFM’s missionaries as they share good news that has the potential to unite us all with God our Father. More than that, I challenge you to take some time this week do something loving for someone who makes you uncomfortable. Tell that Facebook friend, whose posts you can’t stand, what you appreciate about him. Drop off groceries at the home of that neighbor who blares her music at 2 a.m. Invite a Muslim refugee to dinner. Pass out hot chocolate or lemonade at a political rally of “the other side.” Whatever you do, find some way to be loving toward the neighbors you find least desirable. Why? Because that’s what Jesus did for you and me. As the Apostle Paul says, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
If God could love us while we were still far from Him, we can certainly do the same for our neighbors. And while we’re doing it, we might experience the reality that, in this challenge of life, we’re all on the same team. We all have the same Father, and He is rooting for all of us.