As I continue to learn and exercise how to incarnate the Gospel with my neighbors, God often reminds me that the call to missional living is often “messy.” Case in point:
Not long ago, my neighbor asked if he might borrow my lawn tractor as he was needing to aerate and seed his lawn. This was not a surprise request as I had offered the use of my tools to him before. I was excited that he had taken me up on my offer, and was glad to bless him in this way, hoping that this might deepen my relationship with him, and allow me the opportunity to share a Gospel witness with him. However, all those “intentions” were quickly nullified by my response.
Point of confession here: I am very particular about my “stuff.” I’m the guy who keeps his equipment in “showroom”condition (or at least close to it), and expects others to honor that same code. Whatever you call it, in this instance, God has made it apparent to me that I have an “idolatry” issue. Why is that relevant to this story? Let me explain. After trudging through his yard, in which two very large dogs roam, my neighbor returned the tractor in a less than desired state-remember “two very large dogs?” I think you get the picture. Rather than address the issue out loud, I did so under my breath as I hosed off the tires that were clotted with dog “gifts.” What was this guy thinking? How could he return “my” stuff in this condition?
Upon hearing my disdain, my 15 year-old son reminded me of what I had been trying to teach our family, “just as Jesus met physical or practical needs first in order to share a Gospel witness, so we must do the same as a family with our neighbors. Everything we have is His, and are tools to help further the Gospel.” To be honest, he wasn’t that detailed. He simply asked, “Dad, isn’t this God’s tractor?” Ouch! All my “God-intentions” went out the window in that moment. I had to confess my hypocrisy and sinfulness with my son and with the Lord.
More and more I am asking God to show me ways to live on mission with my neighbors. It means different things to different people, but for me, it means serving my neighbors any way possible so that I might extend the love and grace of Christ to them-even if it’s less than “showroom condition.” A continual reminder that missional living is often “messy.”
Tim Cotler, Director-plantCHICAGO