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No One Said Loving Your Neighbor Would Be Easy

No One Said Loving Your Neighbor Would Be Easy

God has an amazing way of reminding us that nothing is beyond His sovereignty. I was reminded of this as I walked toward a polling station a few years ago after voting in the presidential election. I was glad that I made that decision and was quite happy to enjoy the autumn weather.

I planned for my quintessential “I voted” selfie and thought about where I would place my sticker. I wondered how my hair looked, and if I would run into anyone from high school. As I got closer to the booths, I took a moment to consider the candidate I was voting for. I wondered if they were really the right person to lead this nation, and if their opponent was perhaps more qualified for the task.

As the lie of anxiety began to creep up, I settled in my heart that regardless of who won, God could use them to accomplish His purpose and to unfold His plan. Then, suddenly, He spoke. It was more of a download than a dissertation, but I heard Him clearly say, “I place people of influence around Kings to accomplish my purpose.”

What an amazing truth that this still relevant today.

God is able to place someone who is full of His wisdom and Spirit in a position where the leaders and rulers of our nation are asking them for guidance. Beyond that, we each have influence to a certain capacity in our daily lives. This capacity to incite change in the people and situations around is powerful tool for reform when realized. And it’s essentially important to remember this influence when it comes to loving our neighbors, our friends, and yes, even those we disagree with. So how exactly do we do that?

Understand their perspectives, but don’t lose yourself in it.

Knowing who you’re speaking to is one of the most important elements in building connection. Without getting beyond our own perspective, we can’t seek to bring change to systems that we do not understand. Daniel gives us a powerful illustration of this.

When King Nebuchadnezzar besieged Judah, he brought young men into his service who were capable, well informed and handsome, among other things. These men were subjected to three years of training to learn the language and literature of Babylon. It was during that time that Daniel and the three Hebrew boys famously refused to defile themselves by eating the king’s food. The BIble records that the Lord gave these four young men understanding of all kinds of learning and that Daniel could interpret dreams and visions.

The group is set even further apart when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego unflinchingly face death, rather than bowing in worship to the king. The Lord rescues them from the fiery furnace in a powerful display of His saving grace. Ultimately, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego end up promoted to prominent positions of power. Even more amazingly, the prideful, self worshipping King Nebuchadnezzar decrees that there is no God like the God of the Hebrew boys and that anyone who speaks against the Lord will be killed and their property destroyed (Daniel 1-3).

Daniel’s influence endured beyond Nebuchadnezzar to advise at least two other Kings.

However, it all began with learning the language and culture of the new place where he found himself and sacrificing luxury to remain pure before the Lord.

Don’t turn a blind eye to injustice.

Loving your neighbor means using the influence God has given you to speak up, even when it may not get you glory and even when it is dangerous. When Mordecai overheard that two of King Xerxes’ officials were plotting to assassinate their leader, he spoke up (Esther 2:19-23). This man had nothing to gain from reporting the plot, but in the face of political and moral corruption, he opted to intervene, rather than sit idly by and watch the situation play out.

Some may hide behind a refusal to gossip as an excuse for not speaking up when detrimental or damaging information comes across our paths. However, there is a distinction between gossip and nobly speaking up and out against an injustice. Gossip seeks to destroy a reputation and gain a following by turning people against someone or something. Speaking up, springs from a place of love, and exposes only for the purposes of guarding and protecting others.

We see another example of speaking out against a proposed injustice in the actions of Esther herself. Despite some seriously valid reservations, Queen Esther tactfully makes an appeal to the king for her life and lives of her people who have been sentenced to genocide. For Esther, this decision to stand up on the behalf of her ethnic group could have cost her her life before the request even left her lips. In the end, Mordecai is honored for revealing the plot to assassinate the king and promoted to a position of power. The king issues a counter-edict to the one that declared genocide. Not only were the Jews successful at defending themselves, but the Bible records that people of other nationalities became Jews because the fear of them and their God (Esther 4-9:19).

As Christians, we have the favor of the Lord on our side when it comes to speaking out against injustice.

Like Esther, we must seek the Lord, and speak out with wisdom, tact and boldness.

Don’t let your frustrations bring division.

Frustration can be defined as something that causes feelings of annoyance or anger. Life is full of those things. Social media has made it increasingly easy to vent and allowed us the instant gratification of having someone agree with us. But Facebook rants aren’t changing the world. True influencers use frustration to fuel their fire and ignite change. Frustration and other moments of intense emotion should move us toward action.

When Nehemiah heard that the gates of Jerusalem had been burned and that the wall was broken down he mourned. Nehemiah wept and cried out to God on the behalf of his people. He also did something that most of us today likely would have neglected. He asked for favor in the eyes of his boss, the King. Nehemiah intended to do something.

Four months after finding out about the devastation, Nehemiah was afforded an opportunity to use his influence. The king not only granted Nehemiah permission to leave his appointment as cupbearer for a set period of time so he could rebuild the wall, but he was also granted wood for the city gates and an army and cavalry to travel with (Nehemiah 1-2:9).

Part of leveraging influence is leveraging frustration. What are you doing about the inconsistencies and voids that bother you? Are you praying about them as much as you are speaking them out? Are you prioritizing love above being right or is leveraging your opinion more important than leveraging your influence? I encourage you to take a lesson from Nehemiah, mourn and pray, but then repair the thing that is broken. Beginning in your own community, in your own home, and perhaps even in your own heart.

Always be ready to offer a solution.

In the moments between Joseph standing before Pharaoh as a prisoner, and Joseph being elevated to second in command to the King of Egypt, the dreamer did more than dream: He problem solved.

The interpretation to Pharoah’s dreams was pretty heavy. Famine meant widespread suffering, death and economic collapse. When Joseph finished explaining the meaning of the dreams to Pharaoh, he continued on and told him what to do so the country would not be ruined by what was about to take place (Genesis 41:25-43).

Joseph wasn’t just a dreamer. He was a lifelong leader. The pit literally served as the vehicle for elevation in the life of this Biblical hero. The plan that Joseph gave Pharaoh is the very plan that he became responsible for implementing. Because of this, Israel migrated to Egypt and the rest is history.

Joseph used his gift of dream interpretation and his influence to provide for his family and to set them up to live comfortable lives. Joseph did not let the circumstances of his life hinder his leadership. Joseph was a minority—for the people of Egypt to share a meal with him was an abomination in their custom (Genesis 43:32), but that did not stop Joseph either. Actually, Joseph having an understanding of the culture, used this knowledge to his advantage. Shepherds were also detestable to Egyptians, and Joseph advised his father and brothers to tell Pharaoh they had been shepherds since boyhood so they would be allowed to settle in Goshen (Genesis 46:33-34).

Like Joseph, Esther, Nehemiah and Daniel, the Lord has placed each one of us in the position to bring change and solve problems. Whether we are in a high position of power or simply bothered by what is happening around us, we have a responsibility to seek the Lord on how to leverage our influence. We also have a responsibility to then do something once we have prayed about it.

After all, faith without action isn’t faith at all.

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