The greatest commandment is to love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). And the greatest way to love your neighbor is to share with them the good news.
But, here’s a question: have you shared the gospel with your neighbors? In fact, do you even know your neighbors? The people who live closest to you—so close that you can hear their dog barking, smell their food cooking, and see when they take down their Christmas tree—do you know their names? Know where they are from? When is the last time you had a conversation with them?
If those questions are convicting, remember that God is not asking you to check those boxes or complete a task list. He is interested in the condition of your heart. The motivation for being a good neighbor is to love them and show them God’s love.
So how can you love your neighbors by sharing the gospel with them?
Who Is My Neighbor?
If your goal is to share the gospel with your neighbors, one obvious question would be, “Who is my neighbor?”
Jesus answers that exact question in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). The answer is, essentially, that anyone God places in your path is a “neighbor” to love. That does include your literal neighbors; God has placed them in your path for a reason. But the call to love people is not limited just to the people who live near you.
The parable of the Good Samaritan calls us to have a “that’s my ditch” attitude. The first man in the story was left beaten and wounded on the side of a public road. The next two people to come along the road passed by on the other side; their attitude was that it wasn’t their problem. That ditch, and the man who laid there, wasn’t their responsibility. The Samaritan decided to make it his problem. He decided: that’s my ditch, because God has placed me here at this moment, and so I should show God’s love to this person in front of me.
Make the decision to treat your neighbors as neighbors. They are living alongside your road, on your street, in your ditch.
Get to Know Your Neighbors
You can do a better job of loving your neighbors if you truly know them. The best way to do that is not to insert yourself into their lives, but to invite them into your life.
Invite your neighbors over for dinner, or a game night, or hanging out around the fire pit. (The pandemic might make that difficult for a while, but it won’t last forever.) After inviting them over for socializing, it will then be natural to also invite them to join you for church or for a backyard Bible study.
Take a long-term approach to the relationship. They will still be your neighbor regardless of how they respond, and you want to have opportunities to continue talking with and sharing the gospel with them.
Serve Your Neighbors
As the example of the Good Samaritan shows, we should seek to serve our neighbors and help meet their needs. Those needs could be something essential, like being able to put food on the table, or something as simple as lending a hand with the yardwork.
People will be much more interested in what you have to say if they know that you care about them and have their best interests in mind. Serving your neighbors shows them that you are a selfless friend, and not some kind of a spiritual salesperson.
Share the Gospel
It’s been said that you should “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” The idea that you should show God’s grace and love through your actions is correct; however, using words is always necessary. You have to let them know why you are living that way. You have to tell them the good news.
If you are not sure how to convey the gospel message to someone, check out these tools for sharing the gospel. Once you get to know your neighbors, you can also tailor your approach based on what they believe.
Of course, don’t forget to pray. This isn’t the last step; it’s the first step, and should be part of every step (Ephesians 6:18-20; Colossians 4:2-4). We can’t do anything on our own (John 15:5), and it is God who works through us to accomplish His will (Philippians 2:13). If you would like reminders to pray for your neighbors, some people find the Bless Every Home online tool to be helpful.
Pray for your neighbors. Pray that you would be a good neighbor, serving as a light in your neighborhood and in your workplace (Matthew 5:14-16). Pray for opportunities to serve them and share the gospel. And then be faithful to take advantage of those opportunities.