Real Relationships Walk With a Limp [The Art of Neighboring #4]
The Art of Neighboring: Real Relationships Walk With a Limp
Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor • July 17, 2016 • Rev. Donnell T. Wyche, Senior Pastor
We’re so glad you are here with us this morning. If this is your first time or 100th, we are honored that you are here today in our community.
Whether you arrived here this morning because of an Internet search, because you were invited, or because you already knew the way, we are grateful for you and for the gift of God that you bring with you into this space. Our simple prayer for you is that you would experience welcome, acceptance, peace, and space to have an encounter with the loving presence of the living God during your time with us this morning!
We are continuing this week in our current sermon series, The Art of Neighboring. In Luke 10, an expert in the law asks Jesus a question, “Who is my neighbor?” In reply, Jesus tells the expert a story about a Samaritan who becomes a neighbor to a wounded man. In doing so, Jesus instructs us that our obligation is to love God with everything we have, mind, body, strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our love of neighbor has to start somewhere and I suggested that we start with our literal physical neighbors.
From James, the brother of Jesus, we learned that we need wisdom from above as we make our way loving our physical literal neighbors.
13Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:13–18)
Remember, James is the real deal, he wants receipts. If you think your wise, James says, let me see your receipts? Prove it! Show me! Show me your wisdom by your lifestyle. For James, it’s not good enough to talk, he wants proof. This morning, I want to continue to draw wisdom from James as we look at wisdom that produces mercy, purity in heart, and transparency (impartiality and sincerity).
Wisdom from Above Creates Mercy and Good Fruit.
When we operate in the wisdom that God gives, we are merciful, our posture towards the other is transformed and changed. As we recognize that both we and our neighbor need mercy, this can produce good fruit in our lives and the lives of those around us, fruit like: humility, friendliness, kindness, contentedness, and space to see the other.
9Whoever would foster love covers over an offense,
but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. (Proverbs 17:9)
8Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:8–9)
James says, if I’m wise, I won’t emphasize your mistakes, I won’t criticize you or your suggestions. This is a recognition that we all miss the mark and need forgiveness and mercy. This wisdom from above also creates margin for me to see my need and to recognize your need as well.
Example: Seeing a neighbor struggle with carrying in a 60 pound TV.
Wisdom from Above Creates Purity in Heart.
When we operate in the wisdom that God gives, we learn to check ourselves and our motives towards each other.
2People may think all their ways are pure,
but motives are weighed by the Lord. (Proverbs 16:2)
Wisdom from above, centered and secured in God’s love for us, allows us to love each other.
Remember what Paul says about love in 1 Corinthians 13:
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8Love never fails.
Love like this requires the embracing of the imperfections of our selves and those around us, love like this risks being disappointed and disappointing others. its distinguishing mark is the willingness to repent and to accept the repentance of others. This the submission that I think James is referencing in the passage, if we can stop expecting perfection, we may be surprised by the beauty that we discover. (We find ourselves ourselves broken at the cross of Christ- together!!)
Example: Hosting BBQs before the garage is cleaned. I am often very task oriented, but when I host BBQs, I can focus on serving others and creating a space for connection. But I have an image problem. I want to present my best and often my garage is a mess, so I usually wouldn’t start hosting BBQs until I could clean out the garage, but then I’m too busy, so I can get stuck between my desire to host and my need to project an image of myself.
Wisdom from Above Creates Transparency (Impartial and Sincere).
When we operate in the wisdom that God gives, we can be ourselves. There is no need for us to wear masks to obfuscate who we are and how we might miss the mark.
13Those who conceal their sins do not prosper,
but those who confess and renounce them find mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)
When we operate in wisdom from above, we recognize that we are loved and accepted as we are, the good, the imperfections and everything in between. There’s no need to disguise who we are, just to impress others. We recognize the gift of God within us and we are willing to share ourselves, our whole selves with others. We are transparent, honest, authentic, and genuine, realizing that this is our true self. There’s this idea that we shouldn’t be afraid to share our weaknesses with others since they already know them. It’s often only us, who is unwilling, unable, or unaware of our weaknesses. Everyone else can already see them at work in our lives and interactions with them!
Example: Inflating our job title and responsibility to seem more important. As I was moving into my pastoral ministry, I hadn’t actually been given the title pastor, but I would often introduce myself as the youth pastor.
Interview with Stephen Fox:
Who are you? What brings you joy?
When you were growing up did you know your neighbors?
When you recently moved, did you have a plan for meeting your neighbors?
As you met your neighbors, what surprised you?
Has any of your neighbors blessed in you in any ways you would like to share with us?
Any suggestions for meeting our physical literal neighbors?
As we wrap up this sermon series on the art of neighboring, I have two practices that will help us obey the greatest commandment and love our neighbors as ourselves.
1.) The Art of Focusing
As you get to know your neighbors, you will begin to recognize that you can’t be everyone’s best friend. Let’s imagine your relational ability as a lego, a lego with eight connectors; there are times in your life when your connectors are all full, preventing you from adding more friendships or connections.
Our ability to connect is limited by many things, so it’s okay to acknowledge your limitations or even your lack of interest. I think it’s helpful and permissible for you to understand that it’s okay to be intentional with just a few of your neighbors. If you are a relational person, you may have plenty of time and bandwidth. So, you can skip this one.
I also want to give you permission to invest in the relationships that are working. I give you permission to ignore the guilt of trying to get to know all of your neighbors; if they aren’t interested, you don’t need to force it. There isn’t a quota. Be friendly with everyone, and be close (and try to develop a relationship) to a few. These people are called “people of peace” in the scripture. When Jesus sends out the 72, he instructs them to locate the “person of peace” in the community and to stay with them.
Practical ways to meet your neighbors:
On the sermon handout, I have a few practical steps you can use to engage your neighbors.
Above all, be yourself. If a new acquaintance can tell you’re authentic, they’re less likely to be on guard and defensive.