How To Neighbor
Loneliness is increasingly significant in our world. For those who find themselves alone and lonely, it can be crippling. Having a friend on Facebook is a poor substitute for having a friend in reality. One of the blessings of the Christian faith is that it draws people into community. And in community we can help eliminate the feeling of being unwanted, unneeded, uncared for, maybe even unnecessary. There are people everywhere who feel despite their best efforts, that they are directionless and lost. They don’t know where to turn, and feel increasingly discouraged and sometimes hopeless. All they can utter is oftentimes, “Why is nobody helping me? What else am I supposed to do?” The church can do a whole lot to love the lonely. ”Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.” Psalm 25:16-17.
Bottom Line: Love is the solution to relational poverty.
Something To Talk About:
When Jesus was going through the worst hours of His life and about to be crucified, His friends abandoned Him and even pretended they didn’t know Him. Jesus knows what it is like to be a lonely human. The Bible says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” (Psalm 34:18) What would it feel like for your neighbors and friends to know in their deepest moment of loneliness, they are not alone? So how do we as neighbors and believers help those who are lonely:
- Love with touch: The gospels are full of Jesus moving, speaking, touching and healing person after person. He touched people… a lot. Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever. Jesus touched her hand, the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve Him. (Matthew 8:14-15) The daughter of a ruler was dead in bed. Jesus took her by the hand, spoke to her, and she got up at once. (Luke 8:53-55) Two blind men followed Jesus, crying that He would have mercy on them. He touched their eyes and healed them because of their faith. (Matthew 9:27-29) Then there is the story of the leper in Matthew 8:1-3: ”…Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. As Christians, we often look but don’t touch. We see our neighbor’s needs, but we don’t know what to do. We just do what Jesus did. He touched. Jesus pushed through the crowds to get close to them and touched them. The world put their hands over their eyes, but Jesus put His hands on the bodies of the broken that needed His healing. The more I look at what Jesus did, the more I see that He wasn’t made dirty by touching the unclean. The unclean were made new and spotless instead. We can’t expect to just look at our neighbors and expect to remedy the situation. We have to reach out and touch somebody.
- Love by listening: As I said on Sunday, most people don’t listen with intent to understand. Rather they listen with intent to reply. Our goal is not preparing a clever retort while the other person is talking. Our goal is to listen to others as God has listened to us. German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s had this to say on the subject. “The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. . . . It is God’s love for us that he not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear. . . . But Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by Him who is Himself the great listener and whose work they should share. We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the Word of God.” God is the great listener and our prayer is to be more like Him in this way, knowing that there is nothing that we do that is more like Him.
- Love with time: Jesus was always going somewhere, but nowhere in the Bible do we ever see Jesus rushing. Jesus never rushed. With great intentionality Jesus stayed un-rushed. Yet, Jesus knew pressure. He knew stress. People pulled at Him everywhere He went. Crowds demanded Him to speak, individuals begged for healing. The disciples wanted leadership. Friends wanted time with Him. The religious rulers wanted answers. And there was an entire world to save. Yet, He didn’t rush. He talked with the woman at the well. He reached out His hand, making contact, and healed the leper. He felt the touch of the woman with the issue of blood and stopped for her. Jesus didn’t rush, so neither should we. He lives in us and is working through us and surely He doesn’t need our rushing to accomplish His eternal purpose.
- What is loneliness? What are some typical factors that contribute to loneliness? Who is the least lonely person you know, and why do you think they are not as lonely as other people?
- What are some reasons we have a hard time acknowledging our loneliness to ourselves and others?
- Sometimes we are not paying attention and lonely neighbors are in our blind spots. How do we identify someone in our blind spot?
- Thinking about your own spiritual journey, did you ever feel like you were in people’s blind spots?
- How can we make a significant impact in the life of a neighbor who is experiencing loneliness?
- What are some practical ways you can you act like Jesus and love the lonely? What might be a practical way to connect with someone in your blind spot who is struggling with loneliness?
Take One Thing Home with You:
This teaching series is called “How To Neighbor.” How close are we to our neighbors? Do we know them in a way that we can share their burdens and joys. This series is designed to teach us all how to neighbor. This message is on how to love our lonely neighbors. But what if you are the lonely neighbor?
Christians too can feel left out, different, like something was wrong with them. Loneliness. It’s a universal feeling. At one time or another every person on Earth has felt it’s presence. And sometimes we stay isolated, lonely and hurting. There is good news if you feel that way. God cares about our loneliness and what’s more He understands our loneliness. Jesus, who was both fully God and fully man, experienced all of the feelings, temptations and hardships that we do on this earth. And He made a way by dying on the cross to have meaningful relationships, starting with Himself and then with others.
At the risk of resurrecting last week’s sermon, one of the best ways to do that is by serving in the church and joining a small group. It is God’s prescription for loneliness.