My family was honored to appear on the cover of the Christian County Headliner 2014 Community Guide (ccheadliner.com/). Why was it such an honor? Because we love our community and consider it a privilege to live here. It is easy to love living in the Ozarks with friendly neighbors, strong community values, creative local businesses, gorgeous scenery, quality schools, and for us, a great local church. Package all this together and we are very fortunate.
The Priority of Loving Your Community If you are a Christ-follower, very few things in life are more important than loving your community. You may not have it as good as my family does in the Ozarks; nonetheless, it is essential to love your community. Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments in two: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and second, love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-42). In fact, Jesus later said, “They will know that you are a Christian by your love” (John 13:35). So, if you are a Christ-follower, loving your community is key.
The Practice of Loving Your Community If you agree that Jesus placed a high priority on loving your community, then your next question may be, “How do you love your community well?” Let me get you started with five suggestions:
- Be authentic. You first love and live like Christ (Ephesians 5:1-2). Jesus serves as an excellent example of living consistent with what you say you believe. He lived and loved well. This should be true for every follower of Christ. Doing some volunteer work recently, a man described his neighborhood to me. In his description, he called one of his neighbors the “Christian neighbors” – as a compliment! He recognized that living in his neighborhood was better since this Christian family had moved into the nearby house. This is the way it should be for every Christ-follower.
- Be positive. We live in a world where every day we can say, “This is the day that the LORD has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). If God is the maker of this day, I should embrace it and be grateful for it. Sometimes people talk about seeing the cup half-full or half-empty. For the Christian, it should be half-full. For example, regardless of today’s weather, if I receive it as a gift from God, then I can be positive about it. We can meet each new day with joy in spite of the pressures in it (James 1:2-4). Instead of being negative, I can look for the opportunities to serve others even in a pressure-filled circumstance (Romans 12-13).
- Be kind. Life is hard. Days are filled with difficulties. Many people would benefit from something as simple as a smile. Your smile or act of kindness may be the ray of hope needed in an otherwise overwhelmingly cloudy day. You never know what someone is facing, has been through, or is currently fighting. Just one person can make a difference in the whole trajectory of another person’s life – possibly even significant enough to change them forever. Paul wrote to all Christians, “Be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving one another even as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
- Be sensitive. Where are people hurting? Where do you see suffering? Where are people going through difficulties that you can provide some form of help or assistance? Would a glass of water in Jesus’ name benefit another person? Look for these opportunities and seek to make a difference in another person’s life.
- Be active. Volunteer. Attend games to cheer for your community team. Build into a child’s life through coaching or mentoring. There are churches, nonprofits, and community organizations in every community who need help. I have been a member of Rotary since I moved into this community. As a Rotarian, I’ve had the privilege of helping our local school children through Care to Learn, raising money for Special Olympics through a community basketball tournament, serving our police department through a charity golf tournament, and many other worthwhile projects over the years. There are many opportunities to volunteer through the Chamber of Commerce. Plus, almost countless occasions to aid and assist others through my local church ministries like biblical counseling, and occasionally includes working with Children’s Miracle Network and the American Cancer Society.
The Price of Loving Your Community Serving your community always costs you something. Don’t be confused – it is always worth it though – but it will cost you. Anything good always comes at some price.
- Humility. It is never easy putting other people’s desires and needs before your own. The most popular advertising campaigns do not typically start with putting others first. It goes against who we are; we look out for number one. The only way you will have joy in serving others first is through genuine humility. As followers of Christ, we find pleasure in serving others more than self just like Jesus loved and served us. This life of humility flows out of the two great commandments of loving God first and others second.
- Time. Loving your community takes time. If you wait until you have time, you never will serve anyone. Instead, we intentionally plan time in our schedule to serve others around us.
- Creativity. There are so many options to serve around us. Dream – What could you do? Where? How? Do some research – Who is known for serving their community well? What do they do? How do they do it? Listen – What does your community need? What do they want? How can they imagine you serving them well?
- Money. Loving your community will cost you money. It does not have to bankrupt you. In the creativity stage, work off of a budget. Try to serve in ways you can afford. Many times it may just be the cost of fuel to go where you have volunteered. However, donations, dues, hospitality, and offerings all cost. Again, the cost is worth it!
- Personal Effort. In the country we used to call personal effort, “Elbow grease.” Loving your community takes some of that! It may be the effort of organizing, collecting, driving, walking, running, writing, anything. You get out of it what you put into it. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
- Prayer. As you are sensitive to your neighbor’s suffering and needs, don’t forget the value of prayer. Pray for those you know like neighbors, friends, community leaders, pastors, and relatives. Pray also for those you meet. When you hear a person’s story, take a minute to pray for them – even with them! Most individuals are grateful for your prayer even if they do not have any relationship with God personally. Plus, pray for those you read or hear about through the medial or in typical conversation. As followers of Christ, we should always be ready to pray for those around us (1 Peter 4:7).
- Personal sacrifice. All of these costs ultimately mean one thing for you as you seek to love your community – personal sacrifice. As I’ve already mentioned, it is a sacrifice worth making though!
The Pay Off of Loving Your Community There are some incredible benefits from loving your community. For starters, I’ll name four.
- Your community is better. As you love your community, everyone around you will be better. They will be encouraged by your sensitivity and desire to show genuine love. Plus, they also will be served by your acts of kindness. In addition, your community will be a more positive place. All of these are great benefits of your loving your community.
- You are happier. You will receive joy through choosing to honor Christ in your life; this is true satisfaction. Additionally, it will bring you further satisfaction when you see others who benefit from your efforts. When you do what is right and think what is right, then your emotions are influenced in positive ways. When you add everything together, you are a happier person.
- Christ is honored. When you have been motivated by Christ’s love and a desire to obey God, Christ is honored. Although it is easy to live life primarily in regard to self, you learn God’s best is to love Him and others more. After hearing what is best, you obey. The Bible refers to those who hear what God desires and does it as wise. As a wise person motivated by the love of Christ and desiring obedience, Christ is honored.
- Christ is shared. Those in your community see how the love of Christ is shared to them through you. They wonder and ask how you are different. You get to share the difference Christ has made in your life personally. In the process, the love of Christ that you live is shared with those you love.
The Prediction of Loving Your Community What about you? Are you ready to love your community better? Will you join me? My prediction is this: regardless of whether or not your community has all the advantages as mine, if you make an effort to love your community, your love for your community will grow as well. How about you? What are some things you love about your community? How do you practice loving your community?