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February Activate Post: Being the Church in a more diverse neighborhood

Befriending my neighbor who is different than I

A few years ago, my husband and I took smoked turkey over to our Indian neighbors' home. We found out they were Muslim and could only eat halal meat. Sure, we felt a little dumb, but we got to know our neighbors better and even received a return invite to an authentic Indian dinner in their home.

How familiar are you with your neighbors? Many of our neighborhoods are more diverse than ever before. You and I have a chance to be Jesus to someone who has never heard of Him or experienced His life-transforming beauty.

You may live in a neighborhood where the residents, for the most part, are of the same ethnic and cultural background as you. But if you are like me, you have neighbors from all over the world—places like India, Pakistan, China, Venezuela, and Mexico—just a few steps away. How will we they see Jesus through our lives?

A few years ago, I attended a forum where renowned author, Nabeel Qureshi, raised as a devout Muslim in the US, told the story of how his parents had been in the US for more than 13 years and had never once been invited into a Western home. How sad! We, the Church, can make a difference where we live.

What can we do now to reach our neighbors who are culturally different from us?

1. Know where you live. Check out this infographic and devotional from GMI about being knowledgeable about the diversity in our neighborhoods and engaging our neighbors. 

2. Love where you live. You are where you live for a reason. Discover how to be an instrument of redemption there. Check out this sermon series by Jeff Norris titled Love Where You Live: A Theology of Place.

3. Love your neighbors. Throw aside the notion that your neighborhood is, as Karen Wilk, writes, "an object of outreach programs or social service good deeds but the real, flesh and bone place were God takes up residence and meets us all." Read Karen Wilk's article, Nine reasons Christians Fail to Love Their Neighbors.

Steve Wilson, senior director of International Mobilization of TMS Global, recounts the parable of the Good Samaritan:

Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 is a profound and provocative story. To live it out is a challenge for each of us. Today the nations live in our neighborhoods. New immigrant and refugee neighbors move into the Atlanta area each day. We hear stories from Clarkston, Georgia, a city that has been called 'the most diverse square mile' in the United States. But what is happening in the diverse square mile around where you live, work and play?

God has placed you where you are to be a blessing and an instrument of His love and redemption. Go and be a blessing!

Allison Wiggins serves as the manager of marketing for the church ministry department of TMS Global.