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How to Minister to Your Neighbor

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One of the most frequently asked questions in my life is, ‘How do I minister to someone who struggles with homosexuality?’ Most people have never struggled with same sex attraction so that sounds like a valid question, doesn’t it? Reality is that we feel most comfortable talking with others about our own particular failures because that is what we know…but God’s reality is something quite different. He did not command us to minister to only those we felt comfortable with due to shared experiences. He simply commanded us to ‘go and make disciples’. So what does that mean?

One of the most frequently asked questions in my life is, ‘How do I minister to someone who struggles with homosexuality?’ Most people have never struggled with same sex attraction so that sounds like a valid question, doesn’t it? Reality is that we feel most comfortable talking with others about our own particular failures because that is what we know…but God’s reality is something quite different. He did not command us to minister to only those we felt comfortable with due to shared experiences. He simply commanded us to ‘go and make disciples’. So what does that mean?

God’s Word tells us that Jesus taught the law of love. He said, “…YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF (Luke 10:27 NASB)."

Who is my neighbor? Anyone the Lord leads you into contact with! The person who lives next door…the mailman…that checkout clerk at Walmart…your waitress at IHOP…your child’s basketball coach…the man begging for food…the person you sit next to at the theater …your plumber…you get the idea…those you have any type of relationship with! Ministry does not require that you have expertise in a person’s field any more than it requires that you have experienced their particular sin or hurt. But ministry does require a few things.

  1. Ministry requires that your love the Lord your God with everything that you are. When we realize we have been forgiven much, we tend to love much. As God has loved me into ever deepening levels of freedom, my capacity to love has grown exponentially. I love God so much for all He has done for me…and I want others to know Him like I do!
  2. Ministry requires that you love yourself! Can you believe we need to love ourselves? That sounds so narcissistic, but rather than being obsessively self-focused, I believe that loving ourselves means to have a healthy understanding of who our Creator – our Father – says we are. I am a new creation. I am His child. I am an overcomer. I am redeemed. I could go on and on and on! My point is this: when we view life from the perspective of a new creation in Christ, we have the understanding that with God nothing is impossible! No person alive and breathing is beyond His reach. If I am confident in who God says I am, I can then minister in love to the person most would consider unlovable…whether I have ever dealt with their same issues in my own life or not!
  3. Ministry requires that you love your neighbor as a potential new creation in Christ and, if they are a believer, to love them in spite of your discomfort with their particular struggle. Love does not require the other person’s agreement. You can love someone without agreeing with their political, spiritual, or moral beliefs.

The greatest key in ministry to someone who struggles with something you don’t feel equipped to deal with is this: ministry does not require that I know all the answers. If you know Jesus you know THE Answer! Here is what someone did for me way back in 1981 when I was still bound in the homosexual lies the enemy had seeded into my psyche. A friend found out about my struggles and confronted me – with love. You know what he said to me? He said, “Dennis, I do not know all the answers but I do know THE Answer. I will walk toward Jesus with you…whatever it takes…however long it takes. I will walk with you and discover the answers WITH you.” For the first time I experienced the practical love of Christ as demonstrated by someone who was willing to love me out of their identity as a new creation in Christ. I was suddenly not alone in my struggle. The power of love acted as a safe haven for my soul that allowed me to fall time and again but was always there to pick me up and put me back on the road toward Jesus. Soon I began to walk in more and more freedom until the day came when a light came on in my heart and mind and I was able to choose to follow the Lord with a repentant heart!

The key to ministry is the love of God. As you have been loved, love those you come in contact with. Love can be as simple as a smile to a waitress who has had a bad day or a helping hand to a mom who is trying to comfort a crying baby and pick up those spilled groceries at the same time. Love can be as simple as providing a shoulder for someone to cry on or building a relationship with that next-door neighbor who happens to be gay.

How do I minister to my neighbor? Read what God’s Word has to say:

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have {the gift of} prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

And if I give all my possessions to feed {the poor,} and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind {and} is not jealous; love does not brag {and} is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong {suffered,}does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails; but if {there are gifts of} prophecy, they will be done away; if {there are} tongues, they will cease; if {there is} knowledge, it will be done away.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part;
but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.

When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

- 1 Corinthians 13 NASB

 

http://www.restoredhopenetwork.com/

http://hopeforwholeness.org/

 

 

 

 

 

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