At Gateway Church in Austin, we are continuing a series called Love Where You Live : The Art Of Neighboring.
Here are notes from John’s message:
Children don’t have inhibitions, hangups, fears, or worries about social awkwardness to keep them from just getting to know other kids on the block. They would just cross the street and say “Hi, want to play?” Try that with your neighbors why don’t you—just go knock on the door and say “Hi, I live over there…wanna play?” Yeah, maybe don’t do that–so why is it so hard for adults?
The evil and subversive ways of this world have hurt us all, made us distrusting, cautious, fearful, worried, isolated, and left to ourselves that’s how we tend to stay. Hurt, isolated, fearful people tend to hurt others, and so on and so on from person to person, generation to generation.
Jesus entered into the world to reverse that trend. In the book of 2 Corinthians, chapter 5 in the Bible, it says:
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17-18
God wants to restore all willing people into a love relationship with himself—the Source of all Love—so he can begin to make us new. Where we grow spiritually stronger, so we don’t act out of unhealed wounds, cling to old resentments, let fears and worries control us—and all of it keep us protective and isolated—where we can’t play well with others.
Like we said last week, Jesus taught that the 2 greatest commandments were to love God with all we’ve got, and the second was like it—can’t be divided from the first—love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. Later in the New Testament, Paul reiterates Jesus’ words:
If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. 9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
– Romans 13:8-9
It’s amazing how many people long for someone to really listen to them deeply.
If you are a follower of Jesus, you are commanded to love your neighbor—and that’s going to mean interacting and learning to have powerful conversations—so that’s what I want to talk about today—how to have powerful conversations.
Have you ever thought about how powerful conversations can be?
Conversations can change a person’s life. I bet you can think of a few conversations that were pivot points in your life—can’t you?
Here is an overview of how Powerful Conversations develop—Conversations that God might just use to change a life.
As you meet your neighbors, first begin praying for them regularly, and then seek to listen to them as a way to show them you care. People LOVE to be listened to. They crave it—why? Because so few people listen well. Listening well is like offering water to thirsty nomads. That’s why James, Jesus’ half brother, says the following:
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quickto listen, slow to speak. – James 1:19
Quick to listen—which means just the opposite of our natural tendency. We’re quick to speak usually—think about when you’re talking to someone else, what’s naturally going on in your mind? You’re quick to think of what you want to say—right? We’re quick to speak—want to think about what we want to say first. James says, whoa, slow down thinking about what you want to say, and instead, be quick to listen.
What would it mean to be quick to listen? It means you think more about how to get them to talk than what you’re going to say. It’s other-centered communication. That’s loving—to center on, or focus on, allowing the other person to talk and feel heard and understood. And by the way—this will really help in all your relationships if you learn to Listen Well—people will want to be around you.
Ask Prompting Questions
So when you start to get to know your neighbors—it helps to just ask questions. Pay attention to the level of friendship—some questions may be very appropriate as the friendship and trust develop, but wouldn’t be a first.
While they’re talking, pay attention to what they’re saying, not what you’re going to say, and listen curiously for clues of more questions you can ask. Pay attention and let curiosity prompt new questions.
For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view. 2 Corinthians 5:14-16
This is no longer about you!
If you’ve realized what God did for you to draw you near and demonstrate His love and grace and eternal blessings he’s promised you in Christ, let that love that Christ demonstrated for you urge you on to love your neighbors. Jesus laid down his life for all of us, and if we’ve accepted His free gift of being restored in loving relationship with God, then we chose to die to that old way of playing God and only thinking about ourselves. He died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him.
So, let His love urge you own past what’s comfortable or easy and take interest in your neighbors so You can demonstrate His sacrificial love to them.
Put Them in a Good Frame of Mind
That verse said “We no longer regard people from a human (or worldly) point of view.” What does that mean? A human point of view usually sums up and frames a person pretty quickly by what we see or judge on the outside—right!? Rarely do we picture that person as God intends them to be—full of His Life, Love, Hope. Here’s the thing—as you’re getting to know things about your neighbors, inevitably, they will say something that ruffles your feathers—it’s not what you’re about, or believe, or think is right and appropriate. And how you Frame that person—what you think about them—will influence whether they feel safe and comfortable talking more, or whether they shut down.
What do you do as you’re getting to know your neighbors and you don’t like what you’re hearing? Don’t look at them from a worldly or human point of view—look at them from God’s point of view. Christ died for him/her just like for me and you—why? Because He sees what we can become—He already pictures what He intended us to become when He created us—that’s what we need to try to picture. This is SO powerful.
Be A Spiritual Detective
Ask spiritual questions to find out where people are coming from. You don’t start here, but as the friendship develops, don’t be afraid. You probably don’t realize how open most people are to talk about spiritual matters. When the united churches did a Citywide survey we asked “How open would you be to have a conversation about religion or spirituality with a neighbor?” 63% said either “open or very open” – 6 out of the 10 people around you are way more open than you think. As long as it’s a two-way conversation, there’s openness to disagreement, and it doesn’t feel forced or pressured. This is stuff of life.
18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
Stop and think about what this says—especially if you’re here and still have not Come Back to God. The word reconciliation means to restore friendship—relationship. God, the Source of life and love and everything good created, loves you and me so much—he sent Jesus to enter our suffering, die and take our punishment, so that all who want to Come Back to God, simply can—willingness (or faith) is all it takes. Isn’t that amazing—every human hopes God is like that. That somehow, I’ll be forgiven and my good will outweigh my bad, and I’ll go to Heaven and all this suffering will be made right—everybody hopes—not everybody has that confidence that it’s true. Or knows they are forgiven and right-related to God, or how Valuable and Loved they are by their Creator. But if you’ve received the gift of being reconciled to God, him no longer counting your sins against you, then he’s given you this wonderful message of reconciliation to share…You are His Ambassador to your neighbors.