I got a text from my neighbor the other day. Mark is a great guy. He lives two doors down from me, and yet, due to the busyness of life, I rarely get to talk to him. He wanted to know if I had time to come over later that week and spend some time on his back porch.
Admittedly, I was a little leery about accepting, because I suppose the inner cynic in me is always wondering if there is a hidden agenda. That is a little difficult for me to admit, especially since I regularly teach on the value of having these sort of back porch conversations with our neighbors. And yet, our culture has sadly conditioned us to automatically assume that a conversation is never just a conversation.
I am happy to tell you that my cynicism was quickly laid to rest.
I went over that Sunday afternoon, pulled up a chair, and just listened. We talked about life, marriage, cars, and raising kids in the midst of a pandemic. And then, as we were coming to a close, he asked how he could pray for me and anyone else in the neighborhood that I knew was in need.
I walked home feeling ten pounds lighter and with a renewed since of hope in humanity and the power of neighborliness. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to spend thirty minutes in deep conversation without once discussing any of the divisive issues that confront our world today.
Our world needs more neighbors like Mark. In fact, our world needs more churches filled with people like Mark. What happened on that back porch on a Sunday afternoon is exactly what ought to be happening in every church narthex, Sunday School classroom, living room and back porch in this country. I have no idea what his politics are or his position on masks is or even what he thinks about the Dallas Cowboys. I just know his heart. And that’s enough.
In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul writes:
18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,[a] not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
The ministry of reconciliation is the ministry of Christ’s Church. And it happens in the big, showy ways that we sometimes see on Sunday mornings, but it also happens in all of the casual conversations we have with neighbors that we have for the simple purpose of showing Christ’s love.
In this season we are in, the world needs the church more than ever. Our communities need prayer more than ever…and we all need someone who will sit down with us and simply ask, “How can I pray for you today?”