While sitting in a local coffee shop enjoying a cup of espresso and reading for my upcoming theology seminars, a simple question struck me as I looked around the shop, and it simmered in my mind for days as I mulled over my answer. The question emerging was simple: How many people do we sit beside, walk past, and interact within a single day? Now, I’m not talking about a roommate, best friend, or spouse; instead, a stranger in need of the gospel. We know the gospel is the saving message for all who hear, and we have a calling to tell all nations (Acts 1:8, Matt 28:19-20), yet there are people in our backyard who are still lost without hope. As men and women who have encountered and continue to experience the gospel, we ought to live intentional lives of service to the neighboring people. However, so often, we forget one of our most straightforward commands: to love our neighbors as ourselves.
In Matthew 22, the Pharisees challenge Jesus and ask this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:36-39). The Great Commandment is a staggering response by Jesus that we are supposed to love our neighbor as ourselves. In this article, I want to examine how we become intentional with loving and serving the people around us. It is my hope and prayer that this article leaves you encouraged and strengthened to live a life sold out for Christ and His Kingdom.
Be Intentional with the Gospel in Our Lives
For us to understand the weight of the gospel and its implications for the surrounding people, we must first look at our faith. It may seem counterintuitive for us to examine how we walk for us to impact others with the gospel. There is a fine line on which we must walk, a balance between serving others and making sure our tank is full. The water is muddled with confusion on how to do this. However, in Second Corinthians 13:5, Paul tells the church in Corinth that they must examine themselves and test themselves. Lamentations 3:40 says, “Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the LORD.” Littered throughout the Scriptures, the authors show that we must examine ourselves.
Why is this so important? First, if we are not being fed ourselves, we should not expect to feed others. We cannot continue to give out if we have nothing to give. When we have nothing to offer, we get burnt out and discouraged, and many times we fall back on old sin.
Second, there is a grave danger that takes the stage when we neglect the faith in our own life. The saving power of the gospel shifts to our own strength. When we are self-sufficenct instead of grace-sufficent we emphasize how great we are and diminish how great the God of grace genuinely is.
When we believe in the gospel and believed in Jesus in our hearts, we are free and saved from our sins. As recipients of the good news, we have to be intentional in sharing it with the people around us. As he was ascending to heaven, Jesus challenged his Disciples with the great commission, saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Be Intentional with Seeing and Meeting Needs
It is all too easy to put our Air pods in, walk out the door, and enter “our own world” until we get to our desired destination. It has become all too common for individuals to check out of reality to complete whatever task they have been given. Yet, every day we encounter lost souls desperate for the gospel. I’m reminded here of the Parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10. The Jew and the Levite both walked right by the man on the side of the road. Our initial reaction upon hearing that these men did nothing is to cast blame and rebuke them for their actions. However, how often in our lives do we walk right past someone in need and never act. At least in my life, I feel it is all too common. We have been given this great gift of Salvation we do not deserve, but we are not called to receive this gift and then sit idly by while our neighbors never hear this saving message. We have a job to do here on earth: to love, serve, and share the gospel with the people around us. However, despite the call of the gospel to help others, we tragically become guilty of what the author of Hebrews described and “neglect such a great salvation” (Heb. 2:3).
Be Intentional with Our Love to the Lord
Lastly and most importantly, to love and serve the people around us as Jesus has commanded us to do, we must love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Deut 6:5). This is the foundational theme for all human beings: to love God.
When we turn to other sources to be our foundation, they always crack and prevent us from living a life devoted to God. Our love and affection for the Lord must be central in each of our lives. When Jesus replies to the Pharisees’ question in Matthew 22, He says first to love the Lord your God, and secondly to love your neighbor as yourself.
We must understand the order in which these are presented and expected. If we are to grasp what Jesus is saying in verse 39, then a radical shift must take place in our hearts. The focus of our lives must shift from an inward, self-serving heart to a selfless servant’s heart. We cannot be intentional and love others if we do not love the Lord. This means that the love we are called to have must be exclusive, fully devoted, and all-encompassing. It needs to be an authentic love for our Savior that is open and honest in the way we fail and fall short. It is an infectious love that permeates our whole-being and floods into how we treat others.
The way we grasp the power of the gospel to influence and help others has been dealt with poorly. As Christians, I know that we can do better by the grace of God. We must be better with the help of God’s grace. We have a call to die to ourselves daily and take up our cross.
When that is accomplished, we can see the need and be intentional with the people around us and reach them with the gospel. If we understand this life-saving message, then we must reach people with it, love people with it, and be intentional with it.
My prayer for each of us is that the gospel may rise anew in our hearts and minds and that God will grant us new intentionality to reach the people around us who are desperate for the life-changing message of the gospel. My prayer is that this article leaves you encouraged in your walk, challenged to be bold in your faith, and with an intentional heart toward others. I pray that we each leave challenged to radically change the way we view others and show the love of Christ to our neighbors.
Matt Duckett is a graduate of Wichita State University (B.A.) and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv.) Matt is the Associate Pastor of Bridge Church in De Soto, KS. He is married to his wife Sarah and they are expecting their first child soon. Matt’s passion in ministry is to see lives transformed by the life-changing message of the gospel.