Love Where You Live
By Shauna Pilgreen
Everything is a work in progress, especially us humans. Our faith is also a work in progress. Our culture and towns make the list. Our homes too. You and I both know something newer, prettier, higher tech and more ideal will come along. That’s a normal part of the progression. Living sent is not getting swept away but being mindful of the direction our world is going and certain of what God’s Word has to say about it.
The seasons of life bring demands that we see as either obstacles or opportunities. Embrace the progress. The point of living sent is not to arrive but to travel well in this one life we’ve been given. It will require we get outside—of our homes and ourselves. Realize that relationships take time and investment.
Be for Your City
We need to be for the places we live in all ways that aren’t contrary to God’s ways. Because you are a citizen of God’s kingdom, you want to be the best possible citizen of ____________ (fill in where you live). What will this take? For me to be for my city, I compost and recycle. I consider the options to bike, walk or transit around town. Buying a book at the local bookstore puts food on my neighbor’s table and contributes to their water bill. Citizens in my city put free stuff on the curb. And we’re collectively okay with this. I’ve scored a beach chair, a kitchen chair and bookshelves. I’ve helped another citizen load a Pottery Barn crib off a curb that she planned to take to a pregnancy care center.
In the city of Kampala, Uganda, our church partners with the United Christian Center on several levels—one of which is to provide trades and skills for the locals so they can earn a profitable income for their family. A team from our church had the honor of participating in the graduation for their cosmetology students. Upon graduation, the church leaders lined the graduates up outside the church, and we got in line behind them. The women received business cards for their new salons to hand out. But this wasn’t enough celebration; coming up behind us was a marching band! We paraded through the streets, proudly cheering on their hard work and announcing they were open for business! That’s being for a city and the people of the city. What does your town rally around? How can you join in?
Know Your Motives
Jesus knows my heart and your heart and his heart and her heart. He sees the motives behind our fears and behind our generosity. Why do we do good works? When done as a good gesture, they speak lovingkindness but can only go as far as humanity allows them. When done with the love of Christ, he sees them as an offering, and he has a way of multiplying those. If we act with the love of Christ, a shift happens—his kingdom comes to earth as it is in heaven. This is why we look up before we look out. This is why our action starts with prayer. Prayer aligns our motives with his.
This lifestyle is inconvenient, because “Christ-lifeness” is inconvenient when compared to worldly standards. Think about Christ and his ministry. Did he only go to towns so he could rest and be served? No! He healed. He fed. He touched people. He invited others to come alongside him. He mourned. He ate. He engaged the religious crowd, the government officials, the outcasts. He attended weddings. He went into people’s homes. He spent loads of time with his closest friends. Inconvenience, when recognized for what it is and who it’s from, creates a release in the soul. Living sent will require something of you. You’ll do it surrounded by imperfect people who don’t understand why you’re reaching out or why you came. It requires selflessness—to hold out your hands and say, “Whatever, God; have your way.” And he will, and you can.
Celebrate Along the Way
Take whatever brings you joy and lead with that. Take the best parts of you and use that gift up. God amazingly will keep refilling it as you use it to bless others. This means taking what is uniquely you and gifting it to others. The celebration happens when others receive your gift, and also when they follow suit. So make it a game. For me, when I get to smile at someone and they smile back, or I say hi and they gift the word right back—that’s winning in my culture. When the neighbor kid comes out to play with our kids, we’re calling that success. These might be givens for you, but think of the wins in your culture. What “scores” as a deeper connection? It’s a given that when people come over in my community, they come bearing chocolates, flowers or wine. The win happens when they feel at home and verbalize that they can’t wait to get together again soon.
Think of what brings you joy. Think of what brings your community joy. Then dance, sing, throw a party and count your blessings.
Excerpted from Love Where You Live by Shauna Pilgreen. Published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Copyright 2019. Used by permission. BakerPublishingGroup.com