How can Christians live out Jesus' love-calling to love our neighbors as ourselves?
Last Friday, we started answering this question with practical steps to implement in our relationships. The first five tips from our friends at YWAM Chicago, Jesse and Emily Bond, were inspirational in many ways, as are the remaining five listed here. (Go ahead and read the first blog if you haven't already: Love Your Neighbor as Yourself ~ Pt. 1).
There are opportunies all around us to love people from different cultures and backgrounds, but it'll take some intentionality to engage. It's always hard knowing where to start. These tips will definitely give you some insight into ways you can connect.
Tip #6. Ask questions… dozens of questions.
This is the most natural, personal way for strangers to become friends. No matter how much general knowledge we acquire about a culture, language or people group, it only reveals a fraction of someone's life story. We still need to get personal with them. Put yourself in their sandals for a minute and you'll be able to walk for miles!
Try some of these for size: "Hey, I noticed your accent... where did you grow up? Where is your family from? What do you miss about living there? Do you have family here? How long have you been in this town, or this country? What other places have you lived? Have people been helpful? What were the biggest challenges for you in moving here? Do you have any American friends?" These are conversation openers, designed to gain insight into how you might be a blessing. Once you’ve found out some basics, press in for more personal insights: "Do you have faith in God? How does that help? What do you pray for? Can I pray for you, too? What's your number so we can stay in touch?" (This last one may feel "forward" in our culture, but it's a great way to communicate that you want to know them more.) Note of caution to the clueless: guys should interact with other guys, ladies with ladies. Keep the intentions clear and above board.
Another story from Jesse; "One of the best (and edgiest) questions I ever asked a stranger was, 'Did you win?' I was on a local city bus and noticed the Hispanic guy in front of me was bruised and cut up. I enquired, and he willingly explained that he got jumped in a park by some guys, and… no, he didn't win. I offered him some bread then prayed for him. I firmly believe that hard questions to answer are good questions to ask - when they're asked with sincere desire to know more about a person and their experience - because they communicate just this: “I care.” Make sure to communicate why you care, too."
Tip #7. Tell stories.
Typically, people from foreign cultures are more open to talking about faith than we are. Why is that? Satan has somehow convinced our culture it's not cool to engage in deep conversation about eternal things. We need to actively refute that lie!
Story-telling is a powerful way to share your faith. Every Bible story has potential to speak truth to people's hearts but Jesus' parables work especially well. They were designed to sort out those with “ears to hear” (spiritual hunger) from those without. Read Scripture often, on your own to memorize and with others for deeper understanding. This gives you a stockpile of stories the Holy Spirit can draw from when you need something to share with a friend. (Note: take care to remain accurate to the text). Use whatever you know about God, to the glory of God, and trust God to help you interpret the message into someone’s understanding.
Tip #8. Put yourself in their shoes.
What help would you appreciate if you were completely out of your element? Many new immigrants will be VERY needy when they first arrive, much like a new-born child! Don't make them repeatedly ask for favors; they will feel indebted to you. Preemptively offer every service you can think of, proving that you really want an excuse to spend time with them. Show persistent gestures of friendship, practicing English with them, giving rides to the clinic, etc. When they become functionally independent and you rarely see them anymore, they will remember all you did to help them. (Their resettlement case-workers will love you, too!)
Here are a few ideas: share a picnic, play soccer, take the whole family to the zoo, shop together, invite them for dinner, share a special occasion or holiday and explain the significance of that celebration. (Note: Sharing a meal communicates desire to do life with people, while invitations to church meetings are often our cultural way of making discipleship someone else's job!)
Tip #9. Pray for them, and believe God is working.
Just as Jesus talked about nature's growth cycles, we can pray accordingly. Pray for people's hearts to be moist and nourished so the seeds of the Word fall on good soil, sprouting, budding and producing kernels (Mark 4:26-29). Pray too for eyes to recognize when the harvest is ripe in an individual, family, or whole people group! It's easy to become discouraged if we don't see immediate fruit, but ask the Father to share some of His perspective with you in order to fuel fires of persistence in prayer and service.
Jesse and Emily recall giving a DVD of the Arabic JesusFilm to a Muslim family, uncertain whether they would watch it. Later, one daughter retold the story of Jesus' death on the cross - astonishing, since orthodox Muslim belief denies Christ's crucifixion. The Holy Spirit was truly moving in this family! Her father also shared this conclusion, “If everyone was like Jesus, the world would be perfect.”
Tip #10. Give thanks.
Thank God that His plan of redemption includes a way for each person to receive salvation if they choose. Thank Him for His abundant kindness, faithful love, and generous heart in drawing people from every people, nation, tribe and language to the glorious procession around the throne (Rev. 5:9-10). Unless you're of Jewish origin, humbly acknowledge that you've received the invitation to join this mighty heavenly throng ONLY because someone in history willingly reached out across cultures with the Good News of Jesus! Surely, then, it is our God-given mandate to do likewise for others? Let's thank Him for the enormous privilege He's given His children to partner in the work of sowing and reaping the great harvest for eternity.
Let's dispel fear by embracing our neighbors with God's love.
YWAM Tyler is blessed to have YWAM Chicago as part of our satellite missions to the USA.
In April, YWAM Tyler will be holding a discipleship training school specifically geared for cross-cultural interaction. The MDTS, Multicultural Discipleship Training School, is a great way to dive deep into God's love for all nations. By getting to know God more, you'll be further equipped to make Him known to your neighbors.