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Preparing Your Heart For Worship: Loving Your Neighbor

I admit that I am an introvert. People are always surprised that preachers and actors can be on a platform, yet still desire to avoid attention- but I am living proof of it. I am uncomfortable when people make much of me. Seven years ago, I had the privilege of engaging an unreached people group in South East Asia. This particular island was remote and rarely had any foreign visitors. My companions and I stuck out like sore thumbs. As soon as we arrived the people we were visiting had a special greeting for us. We were ushered to the beach. As leader of the group a special dance was performed for me. I was given a necklace made out of shells that I was supposed to wear. I was seated in the ‘place of honor’. Natives came up to me and served me delicacies. Then there was more dancing, singing and speeches of gratitude. Every person in the village (maybe a thousand?) was looking at me and watching my reaction … the entire time! All I wanted to do was crawl under the little chair and bury my head in the sand. I hated the attention. But even looking back at that moment … for the sake of the gospel … I would be willing to do it all over again.

I realized by accepting the welcome of these beautiful people, I was honoring them. I was demonstrating love by complying to their cultural norms. I felt like Paul in Corinth when he wrote, 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (ESV) “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews, I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law, I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means, I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” For the sake of the gospel, I would experience the discomfort in order to demonstrate love to the non-believer.

This week at church, you will be asked to step out of your comfort zone. I know you cherish your freedoms. But do not allow your freedoms to become a stumbling block to those seeking the gospel. You will be asked to abide by the policies set out by the church staff. You might need to take a step back in order to observe the six-foot rule. You might have to corral your children so they don’t leap into someone’s arms. You might have to talk to someone wearing a mask and ask them to repeat themselves because you didn’t understand. You might feel a little bit like cattle (or sheep?) as you are ushered into the correct door and to your seat. Yes, you could do otherwise. But our neighbors are watching. They want to be assured if they step into the church building, that you would be willing to do anything you could to ensure their safety (even if you feel it is unnecessary). So for the sake of love, for the sake of the gospel, will you surrender a few of your rights so that your neighbor could attend worship?

1 Corinthians 9:14-16 (ESV) “In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!