This week at Create, we talked about the Incarnation (you know, that one time that God sent His Son to live among us) and what the idea of incarnational living means for Christians today.
The Incarnation of Jesus is a cornerstone of the Christian faith, and before we go any farther it’s important to note that the use of the word incarnational as a model or inspiration for a type of ministry is in no way meant to devalue the awesomeness that was Jesus’ walking among us.
Think of it as a mindset of living and relating the way Jesus did. We, the church, are now the living body of Christ. It's based on the bible passage we explored last week:
Let’s get back to basics for a minute:
One of the foundational ideas behind Create Church is that it’s time to go beyond being neighbors and to start being neighborly. For those in the audience who haven’t heard the spiel, there is a pretty significant distinction between the two words (besides one being a noun and the other being an adjective).
- Neighbor (noun): A person living near or next door to the speaker or person referred to
- Neighborly (adjective): Characteristic of a good neighbor, especially helpful, friendly, or kind
As a neighbor, we are in close proximity to those around us (who are, in turn, our neighbors). No additional relationship beyond that physical proximity is necessary to be considered a neighbor. It’s 100% possible for a large collection of neighbors – a neighborhood – to exist in the complete absence of neighborly behavior.
That next step, the one I think Mr. Rogers was singing about even though he didn’t actually use the word neighborly, is to have a presence with the people you are near. It can feel like a stretch. (I am usually the person who boards the plane with my earbuds already in to let my row mates know I prefer not to make small talk.) But it’s also a critical part of developing a full, rich life as a follower of Christ.
Jesus didn’t move into the neighborhood and then close himself off from his neighbors. He moved in and became the embodiment of the word neighborly. He didn’t just get in close proximity with sinners, he was present and became their friend.
God sent Jesus, and Jesus sent us. Notice the past tense there. We have already been sent. And just like Jesus, we have been sent to be with people, not just near people.
So here’s your challenge for the week:
Think about the people in your proximity. And think about it incarnationally: Jesus loved everyone, not just the people who thought the same way He did.
Now, what can you do to develop your presence with them? You can’t have a relationship if you aren’t present, and relationships are what incarnational living is all about. Here are some ideas, inspired by Spring finally arriving in Minnesota:
- Invite your neighbor over for a backyard BBQ
- Bring a co-worker out for lunch
- Strike up a conversation with another grown up at the park (tip: tell him/her you think the child/ren that he/she is with is cute. Parents, grandparents, babysitters – they all just eat that up.)
- Invite someone to the inaugural session of Disc Golf Church (Yep, that’s a thing!)
- Follow your gut. When you take the first step towards getting to know someone, like inviting them out for coffee, they’ll usually say yes. (And if not, well, I’ll have coffee with you!)