Do you consider yourself to be a friendly person? Would the people who see you, whether at work, as you leave your house, or at the supermarket, speak of how you sought them out in friendship and treated them great? Do you routinely smile and greet those you pass on the street or in the hall, or is your daily focus primarily on yourself?
Two Ignore, One Helps
Jesus was once asked by religious leaders who he considered to be his neighbor. He responded with a familiar parable, the story of the Good Samaritan. In this parable, we learn of a man who is beaten and robbed. A few of his countrymen see his helpless condition, yet pass by on the other side of the road. In contrast, a Samaritan, who is naturally an enemy to the Jewish victim, yet seeks him out, takes him to a doctor, and even covers the expenses for the man’s care.
We often hear this parable as a nice story, meant simply to induce us to be kind. But remember back to what question Jesus was actually responding to when He told this story. He was asked who his neighbor was. Understanding this context gives a deeper meaning to the story than the simple truth that we are to be kind.
Look for Needs
The people of Jesus’ day, much like most people in our day, tended to happily exist in their own small sphere of influence, engaging with people who were like them and who they were familiar with. Through this parable, Jesus shows clearly that we are to intentionally seek out others, others who may not be very much like us, in order to meet their needs.
The Greatest Need
What is the greatest need which many of our neighbors have? For any who do not know Christ personally, who have not been washed and cleansed through faith in Christ, their greatest need is salvation of their soul. Without atonement, mankind is separated from God’s good presence, and any who perish without Jesus will face eternity without Him. The need for salvation is so widespread, little recognized, and of utmost importance that, if we are looking, we will see it everywhere.
This is the condition of many people we see and walk by each day. The strangers who we’re ignoring are desperately in need of the truth, the truth that we know. But someone needs to tell them. Not only that, but most people aren’t particularly receptive to ideas unfamiliar to them being expressed by strangers. So what can we do? We share the gospel with them as a friend.
Be a Friend
Friendship doesn’t come instantaneously, but it can be cultivated in a relatively short period of time. Start simply by adopting the habit of greeting and smiling at the people who cross your path each day. You’ll quickly find that a great many people are eager to engage with you, particularly if you’ll ask them open-ended questions about themselves.
As you cultivate friendships with your neighbors, be listening for what they value. Do they desire wisdom? Or perhaps peace and something solid to rely on? Or maybe they’re contemplating what happens after death because of a recent loss in their family. Remember that when you have Jesus, you have the truth and the life that our world desperately needs. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, share the truth, and let Jesus call out to the people in your life using you as His mouthpiece. To God be the glory!