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One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, He asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31 NIV)

All of the commandments of God are summarized and fulfilled in the two greatest commandments: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. And what does it mean to love my neighbor?

It means getting to know them. It means responding to their felt needs with acts of kindness. It means caring for them and about them. It means sacrificial service in the love of Jesus to show them God's infinite grace. And it means seeking to introduce them to Jesus.

Yes, loving my neighbor well means witnessing to them about Jesus and His amazing grace. Which moves us into an area many of us avoid like COVID: evangelism. Evangelism comes from a Greek word that means good news. That word is usually translated "gospel". To practice evangelism is to Gospelize others. It means bringing them good news.

We do this very naturally in other areas of life. If we discover a new restaurant that has the best food we've ever eaten at great prices, we tell others about it. We may even invite them to go to dinner with us there to experience it. This is food evangelism. It is telling the good news we have discovered and experienced. If we try a new laundry soap and it cleans our clothes "cleaner than clean" like a commercial we saw, we are likely to recommend it whenever laundry comes up in conversation. (How often DOES laundry come up in your everyday conversations?)

Evangelism has gotten a bad reputation at least somewhat because some aggressive types have made us or others uncomfortable with a pushy evangelism strategy, and we have no desire to do THAT with our family and friends. The other main reason I believe we avoid gospelizing others is fear of rejection. They'll think I'm a weirdo and begin to avoid me. It's just safer and more comfortable to let my kind actions do the talking.

The thing is, real love expressed in friendship is rare enough in this world that it is likely to stimulate the question: Why are you so nice to me? Why are you such a good friend? This is a wide-open door for a spiritual conversation about what Jesus has done in our lives and why He is the center of us, and it might well lead to an opportunity to introduce another person to Jesus. And that's what I believe the best evangelism is: person to person and heart to heart.

You see relationship is the bridge over which Jesus moves from one life to another. Loving our neighbor leads to friendship. And that relationship proves we're not weirdos before we would ever have a spiritual conversation with them. If we're listening to the Holy Spirit, He will prompt us when to love without words and when to speak up and tell someone about what Jesus has done for us.

And sometimes the Holy Spirit will lead us to people we're not expecting to witness to. What if when Jesus said to love our neighbor He meant our literal neighbor who lives next door or across the street? It seems like He might well use the relationship we build with our neighbor as the bridge over which He moves from our lives to theirs.

So it becomes pretty important, if we want to practice loving our neighbors, to get to know them. To know their names. To know them well enough to know where they work and what their favorite things are. To know them well enough to invite them into our homes to share a meal. As friendship grows, there will be plenty of opportunities to pray with them when someone in the family is facing surgery or there has been a death in the family. And Jesus can use it all as a witness to them through us.

Besides our literal neighbors, let me recommend FRANgelsim: Listen to God's Spirit as He prompts us to befriend and love well our Friends, our Relatives, our Acquaintances, and our Neighbors. All of us have opportunities to share good news with people already in our lives, and with people we befriend.

Sometimes the Spirit will prompt us to befriend someone new who is not a believer. Perhaps that thought never occurs to us long-time church folk whose friendship circles are largely others already in our church. That could bring us back to our physical neighbors, who may or may not be followers of Christ who are already in a church community.

One thing is sure: you do NOT need to have a Bible degree or be a professional pastor or missionary to practice FRANgelsim. The first century evangelist were ordinary people (often poor and uneducated) who experienced a life-changing relationship with Jesus and wanted others to know Him as well. That pretty much describes you and me! (Except for the professional pastor thing on my part, that is.)

I wonder what would happen this week if we all prayed a simple prayer, "Jesus, use me to tell others about You," and then watched for opportunities among our Friends, Relatives, Acquaintances and Neighbors to love them while listening to the Holy Spirit's promptings to share a word of encouragement or to practice an unexpected act of kindness? I suspect we would be amazed to find God using our ordinary lives to gospelize folks around us - to share Good News with them and introduce them to our loving Savior.

Don't you think it's worth a try?


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