Albert Tate continued our BLESS series this past weekend with a message called “Eat.” Albert used Jesus as an example, showing time and again how Jesus ventured into people’s homes and shared meals with them. “It’s through sharing meals that Jesus exchanged theological truths, expressed deep compassion, extended loving invitations to draw near, and lifted burdens,” Albert said. It wasn’t just the act of eating; Jesus used meals as an avenue to get to know people, bond with them, and show His genuine care.
Throughout his message, Albert challenged us to do the same: Invite others into a warm, grace-filled environment, where they’ll be met with love and compassion rather than judgment and ridicule. Unfortunately, it’s a task easier said than done. As Albert put it, “Do lost people, people who are far from God, people who are not religious at all—do they feel comfortable in your presence?” For many of us, I think the answer, sadly, is no.
We have only to look at Jesus to see that sinners loved Him. They flocked to Him and wanted to be around Him. Jesus was filled with a grace they desperately needed and wanted. Do our neighbors sense Jesus’ grace inside us, or do they characterize us Christians by gazing at our pointing fingers?
Think about it: To whom are you talking on your block or in your neighborhood? Are you the person who waves to everyone and gets into conversations? Or do you run from your car to the door and back again? Are you offering your neighbors anything they can’t get from the secular world?
Or maybe you’ve been around the neighborhood for a while and you’ve gotten to know certain people. You hear things about others. We see that Jesus ate in the houses of tax collectors—those completely despised and disrespected. How about you? Do you greet those who’ve cheated on their spouses with smiles? Do you shake the hands of people with addictions? Do you spend time listening to your neighbors with different political beliefs, skin colors, and backgrounds?
If we’re going to bless others and show them Jesus, then we need to actually show them Jesus. We don’t get to be gracious and full of love to those we like and act cold and short with those we don’t.
Albert asked, “Do you create a space so full of grace that people want to be in your presence?” How radical would it be if your neighbors saw you as a Christian who loves, not judges? As a Christian who serves instead of shuts out? That’s what the world needs: Grace—and people who live it out. Most people know they have a problem; someone else pointing it out isn’t going to help. Instead, are you the kind of person who makes others comfortable? If people share guilt and shame with you, will you meet them with love and respect?
It can be hard to just go up to someone and invite them over for a meal; we’re not all wired with the ability to do that. For this week’s challenge, let’s make an effort just to get to know our neighbors. With the weather getting nicer, more people are out going for walks, working in the yard, or playing with their kids. Next time you see a neighbor, greet that person, exchange names, and find something in common, something you can build on. Then nurture that new relationship.
Christians, we have our work cut out for us: Many people don’t view us in a great light. We can be seen as hypocritical, judgmental, and “holier than thou.” In some cases, maybe this is deserved. But let’s smash those stereotypes and start meeting our neighbors with open hands and open hearts.
Jesus was known by His love, and His reputation preceded Him. Let the word spread about you, too. Be known as kind, gentle, and gracious. To change the world, it needs to start in our neighborhoods. It needs to start with our neighbors. As Christians, we know Jesus is the answer; now let’s be willing to share that answer with everyone around us.