Love Your Neighbor, Serve Your City

 

The title comes from a line in the book,   Interrupted:When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity by Jen Hatmaker. And the Hatmakers have wrecked my life.

In a good way.

I first discovered Jen Hatmaker through her book 7:An Experimental Mutiny against excess.  Her goal was to reduce consumerism in an extreme way, by limiting choices in 7 areas of her life over 7 months. I loved her conversational style and I quickly devoured the book and then I found Interrupted  on Amazon kindle, and that book turned my world inside out.

I have been a church goer all my life. I grew up consuming Christian culture and wondering why I still felt a void in my life. After all I believed, I followed Scripture the best I could, I joined committees at church, went to every bible study I could, attended retreats, prayed, listened to Christian music. But it never felt right.

The next book didn’t fill the hole. The perfect song didn’t end my doubt, an uplifting worship experience deflated as soon as I walked out the doors of the church and into my van. Jen Hatmaker described my church experience perfectly, with all its disappointments, unrest and uncertainty:

“Until we are all compelled and contributing, we’re settling for an anemic faith and a church that robs Christ followers of their vitality and repels the rest of the world.”

Church has become a place we expect people to want to be and then are surprised when they don’t show up. And why?

Because we repel the world.

Hatmaker goes through the process of how she discovered an empty life in church and how she and her family made the radical decision to leave the safety and comfort of their known world and set off on their own. Her husband left as pastor of a large church and began one of his own. The difference being, the focus on mission. Exactly what Jesus told his followers to do. Love your neighbor.

What the Hatmakers do differently is loving all people where they are. They spend little time and money on the church building itself. Their focus is on the neighborhood and city they live in. Helping people who need help, whether homeless, at end of life, single mothers, or drug addicts. Whoever they meet gets the same love and devotion as the person who walks through their doors on Sunday morning.

In fact, any month that has 5 Sundays, they lock up the church and take the church to the world. On those Sundays, people serve. Just as they were called to do. They are not only the hands and feet of the church, but the eyes, ears and heart as well.

Her husband Brandon Hatmaker tells the story in his book the Barefoot Churchabout a woman who invited in her home a man who was being placed in hospice. He was a difficult man to deal with, and she didn’t know him at all. But through the community serving this man, she felt a call on her heart to open up her home to him. Because, as she said, “No one should die alone.”

Who does that? Who in our current Christian culture, loves like that? That kind of loving sacrifice blew me away. To love like that means having space in life to be open to whoever crosses your path. Not being so busy with church, that you forget to be the church.

The reason I said the Hatmakers wrecked my life, is because I am no longer satisfied consuming church. Sitting every Sunday in service wishing it were over, taking another bible study and never growing, and lacking in actual life changing service to the community I live in, I finally understood why my life felt empty. Why, no matter how much I love God, I will still feel something is missing.

Because something was. I wasn’t serving my neighbor. I wasn’t serving my city. I wasn’t being the true church in the world.

The Hatmakers are doing revolutionary acts, in the most quiet of ways.

They aren’t concerned with butts in seats like the rest of the church world. They don’t believe the world needs them, they go out and love people. That’s all. Without expectations, without return. Just like Jesus. Some people may come to church and some might not, but none of that is the point.

The true point is loving God, loving your city, and loving people. Not just the people who come to church. Not just the people who say and do the right things. All people are loved completely and are pursued relentlessly, just like we are.

She is honest and says they have their problems and that their church isn’t perfect. They make mistakes and do things wrong. Which is one of the most important things we should admit to as the church.

We get it wrong a lot. We apologize. We keep loving.

After I finished her book, I read some of the books that influenced her. Like Shane Claiborne. And after I read about half of his book I had to stop.

Because I couldn’t take organized church anymore.

Slowly I am coming out of my funk and seeing the possibilities of reinvigorating the community I am in. I am not going to wait for the consumer culture to change, I hope to be the change.

So don’t be surprised if you get an email from me asking to come to my house and make cookies for prisoners.

Don’t be surprised to get a dinner invitation from me.

Don’t be surprised if I don’t come to your bible study, but instead ask you to give up your Saturday to come serve at a shelter for women with children.

I am being called into the world to love people. I have read the books and now, I have to act. I can’t pretend that being a good Christian means I show up on Sunday, attend Bible Study and serve coffee at church.

Jen Hatmaker opened my eyes to how my life can be a living sacrifice. A sacrifice of love in a world that is so cynical it doesn’t believe that people can do extraordinary acts of kindness for no reason.

This book wrecked my life and saved it at the same time.

Church isn’t the point anymore.

Now my eyes are open to all my neighbors. And who are are my neighbors you ask?

Everyone. Every single person I meet is my neighbor. And I realized how small my neighborhood had been when I kept inside the walls of the church. Interrupted helped me see that the walls of the church need to be torn down and ever expand to include everyone.

Not just the people who show up on Sunday.

Our calling is not to tell more people about Jesus, it is to show them who he is. And we can’t show them if we never leave the church.

I have been given a copy of Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker for an honest review. I will be giving away this copy to a random commenter in the section below to be chosen on Wednesday, August 20. If you are ready for your own life to be wrecked, comment below about how you would like to serve your city.

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