We published this article for the first time back when ITH was just starting out, and we still believe in every word of what you'll read below. We hope it will inspire to see the people around you with greater possibility.
The absolute best person to share the gospel with is your neighbor. But probably not the neighbor you are thinking of. Let me explain.
A friend and I were practicing our testimonies, attesting to how Jesus has changed our lives all while enjoying hot coffee at the local bakery. We wanted to be proficient and efficient in the way we delivered the gospel, ensuring that when we shared with others, they would understand that they too can receive joy, peace, and purpose in Christ and feel invited to join us in His kingdom! As we finished our second or third round of practicing, we ended with asking each other this question: “Who do you think God is calling you to share with this week?”
I would argue that this scene is a common one for people who are making disciples and committing to intentional fellowship. I would also argue that the response to the question, “Who do you think God is calling you to share with this week?” has a common theme in our answers:
“I think I should share with Jim. He seems like a good guy and sometimes uses the word blessing when talking about good things happening in his life.”
“I want to share with Tom. He has a Bible verse tattooed on his arm.”
“I know Jane is one of the only people in the office that doesn’t smoke, so maybe her.”
Who is My Neighbor?
These answers allude to a spiritual form of prejudice. We segregate the “good” people who we believe are more likely to respond positively to Jesus from the “bad” people who we unwittingly believe are too far gone.
This spiritual prejudice is not something that we would ever intentionally speak out on. We know it is wrong: “I’m definitely not going to share with Adam. He is a drug addict and he doesn’t deserve the gospel,” said no follower of Jesus ever. But our actions can make this subliminal thought a reality; just as it did in Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan.
When Jesus told a certain lawyer to love his neighbor as himself, he responded with, “…and, who is my neighbor?” 1. Jesus responded by telling a story of a man who was robbed, beaten, and left for dead on the side of a road. Three men walked by this man who “fell among the robbers”, a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan. The first two, the spiritual leaders of Israel, did nothing. The third man, an outsider, stopped to help. Jesus asked the lawyer, “Which of these proved to be a neighbor?”
We see these same men and women today. Those who “fell among robbers” are also our co-workers, work-out partners, cashiers, and others that are, just like we once were, dead in their trespasses and sins and following the course of this world 2. These people who are deceived in their search for joy are bloodied and bruised by Satan, the robber of joy.
They may also not be the easiest people to share the good news with, but no one said loving people is easy or effortless. We get to be the good Samaritans in their lives by introducing them to Jesus who ultimately heals those wounds and gives the gift of true joy in Him.
Whose Neighbor am I?
I was driving with one of my bosses in a foreign country, both of us operating on little sleep and an inconsistent diet. But it was at this "inconvenient" moment that I was convicted that this was an opportunity to share the gospel. My boss was seemingly a very hard and harsh man. With over two-dozen years in the military and extensive combat experience, he was weathered by a tough life physically and spiritually.
Being my boss’ “neighbor” and sharing the gospel during that drive was not comfortable. However, this was a conviction God gave me. What would make me any different than the Levite or the priest if I ignored this conviction and walked past the opportunity to reach out? That time of discussing Jesus did not mend all the wounds he had suffered from the world, but in that time together I engaged in what we as believers can and get to do; be a neighbor and try to love like Jesus did.
Don’t be like an unbeliever in determining that some people are too far gone and are not worth loving. Don’t be frustrated with the thought that the roads of life are filled with those who fell among robbers and that somehow they are beyond your help.
Instead, I hope this provokes in all of us a challenge to see others the way Jesus does and seek out our opportunities in sharing the gospel. Jim (the blessing guy) Tom (the tattoo man) and Jane (the non-smoker) still need the gospel and a “neighbor” who is willing to stop and share it with them. Take a minute to pray and ask the Father who He wants you to share the gospel with this week. Pray for the boldness to love them. Prove to be avaliable neighbor.