Live Full Walk Free (+ a Giveaway)
About seven years ago, I was in the Charlotte, NC airport after teaching at our Proverbs 31 She Speaks Conference when two women introduced themselves to me. They had attended the conference and we were all headed back to our homes in Michigan. Little did I know that one of those women would not only be at the conference again another year in a speaker group I was coaching, but she would also turn out to be one of my very closest friends and dear prayer sister.
I’ve asked that friend, Cindy Bultema, to share from her new Bible Study, Live Full Walk Free: Set Apart in a Sin-Soaked World. It is a journey through 1 Corinthians touching on themes of identity, unity, purpose, and purity. Cindy equips us to live for God in a sin-soaked world and handle each situation with grace. Here’s Cindy with a sneak peek at one of my favorite chapters, showing us how to scatter Christ’s love and kindness everywhere we go—even in our neighborhood.
How Do We Love Our Neighbors Who Live Differently Than Us?
One of my favorite TV shows to watch as a family is the ABC program What Would You Do? The show uses hidden cameras and actors to recreate awkward scenarios—what I like to call “sticky situations” —and then captures the reactions and responses of everyday people nearby.
I don’t know about you, but I find myself in sticky situations all the time, especially trying to live out my faith in the midst of our confused, anything-goes culture.
- My unmarried, non-church-going neighbors are living together. Should I have them over for dinner?
- An agnostic acquaintance drinks like a fish, but we share a love for Pinterest and DIY. Am I somehow saying her drinking is okay if I invite her over to chat about our latest projects?
- The women in my neighborhood book club sometimes want to read R-rated books. I’m uncomfortable with a few of the book selections. Should I quit my current book club and join a Christians-only club?
That last question? Really sticky stuff—I’m talking gum in your child’s hair sticky. No wonder we’d rather avoid “sticky situations” of this sort—it’s going to be awkward and uncomfortable.
The church members in ancient Corinth had similar questions about how to handle “sticky situations” in their sin-marinated culture. They were living smack dab in the center of a city known for its sexual immorality, indulgence, and idolatry (think modern day Las Vegas). These early Christ followers were confused about what to do with their neighbors who lived differently than they did. “Can I join in on the bad behavior, or must I completely distance myself from such scandalous sinners?,” they wondered.
I love how the Apostle Paul clarifies in 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 MSG. Paul writes,
“I wrote you in my earlier letter that you shouldn’t make yourselves at home among the sexually promiscuous. I didn’t mean that you should have nothing at all to do with outsiders of that sort. Or with crooks, whether blue- or white-collar. Or with spiritual phonies, for that matter. You’d have to leave the world entirely to do that!”
How could one live in sin-soaked ancient Corinth and not be around sinners? You’d have to take the next boat out of their impure port city. Good thing Paul set the record straight! Because when it comes to loving our neighbors who are far from God, we need to follow Christ’s example. And the Truth is this: Jesus loves the lost!
People’s behavior did not stop Jesus from interacting with them. He ate with those who were “outside” the church. He spent time with those who did not agree with him. He demonstrated tenderness and spoke truth from a place of love and compassion.
And He invites us to do the same. If you are a Christ follower, you—yes, YOU— have been personally invited to join Jesus’ search and rescue mission to find his precious missing sheep (John 20:21). You’ve been handpicked to scatter Christ’s love and kindness everywhere you go—even in your neighborhood.
So how do we do this? How do we love our neighbors who live differently than us?
Three simple reminders:
- We should follow what Jesus would do in sticky situations, by seeing our neighbor from God’s perspective.
We don’t have to agree with our neighbor’s choices to be kind, and we don’t have to compromise our values in order to demonstrate compassion.
Instead, let’s show genuine care and concern for our non-churched neighbors by: offering a listening ear, extending an invitation to coffee, or by helping relieve a burden.
- Remember, we do not have a responsibility to judge them or convince them why their choices are immoral.
In fact, the Bible says that we are not to judge those who do not yet know Christ. Instead, who will judge them? God will.
But I’m afraid we often pick up God’s Word, and use it—not as the living, breathing, life-changing, Word of God— but as a “shaming stick” and we hurt people with it. (“You had how many beers with your burger? Shame on you!”)
Sweet friend, we will exhaust ourselves if we try to set everyone straight, and quite frankly, it’s just not our job to judge. Our calling is to love (see 1 Corinthians 16:14). Because the Truth from Romans 3:23 is that we all fall short, we all sin. Including me, including you.
Let’s not judge our neighbors because they sin differently than we do.
- If we are going to be Christ’s example in our sin-soaked world, after we put down our shaming sticks, we must put on “glasses of grace” and go into our neighborhood and affirm:
- You are seen.
- You have value.
- You are loved.
It’s from a place of unconditional love and grace that those who live differently may ask about the source of your kindness.
Take a moment to think about how you would want your neighbor to respond if they disagreed with your choices? Wouldn’t you rather have a caring arm around your shoulder than a shaming stick wagged in your direction? I sure would.
If you’ve ever wondered how to best respond to those neighbors “outside” the church, listen to these four simple but truth-filled words to help you respond with glasses of grace. (It’s also a sneak peek into session 3 of my Live Full Walk Free teaching DVD):
Sweet friends, when was the last time you shared a meal with a non-churched neighbor?
Remember, we can accept others as a person—a dearly loved, created in the image of our Holy God person—without accepting their lifestyle or their choices. It is possible.
It’s time we put down our shaming sticks and put on our glasses of grace.
Let’s remind our neighbors and that woman in the mirror too, that: God is for you!
Cue the confetti. :-)
With nearly 20 years of ministry experience, Cindy Bultema is a popular women’s speaker, author, and Bible teacher. She lives in Michigan with her husband and their four kids. Most days you can find Cindy walking her beagle Rocky, attending one of her boys’ hockey games, or serving hot lunch at her kids’ school.
For a FREE chapter of Live Full Walk Free, a printable set of A-Z scripture cards and other resources, visit Cindy’s blog.
Congrats to Karey and Cindy W! Please check your email for our notification and reply to it with your mailing address OR you can email [email protected] with your mailing address. Thank you!
Cindy is giving away two copies of her Live Full Walk Free Bible Study book and teaching DVD sets. To enter, please leave a comment letting us know your thoughts on loving neighbors who live differently than us. I’ll pick two winners at random and post them here on Monday.
Click here to comment if you are reading this in email.
The overwhelming message on my heart as I faced one of the worst trials of my life was the greatest commandment Jesus reminded us of. It’s not easy to love unconditionally because we often have no idea the wars others face. I have signed up for the study. I have more than 3 friends I would love to include. This giveaway if won would be my way of thanking them for simply listening, then living in action and repeating it all over again. Thank you for this opportunity.
The hardest thing is hanging out with our long term friends who saw my husband and I while we were still choosing to live apart from Christ and then now when we’ve come back to Christ. We’re going to church and diligently seeking Christ individually and as a couple. However, our friends are towing the line between fully surrendering to Jesus while still living in the way we used to live (partying, drinking, etc.). These are people who we love and care for dearly so it can be hard to draw the line where we don’t end up towing a line and sinning. I love you share what seem like simple reminders that are yet so profound.
Thank you for the chance to win a copy of the book. There’s no better way to show others what Christ is like than when we love others as Christ loves us,. Not always easy by any means, but vital is we want to be light in a dark world.
This sounds like an amazing study.
Loving neighbors is easy bc God said love your neighbor as yourself !
Loving those who are different from us can enrich our lives. We can get to know other cultures, languages, and traditions.
Congrats Cindy, you won the giveaway of Live Full Walk Free. Please check your email for our notification and reply to it with your mailing address OR you can email [email protected] with your mailing address. Thank you!
Kim Stewart (Karen Ehman Ministry Team)
Wow… this is exactly the things I have been thinking about…..loving even when we don´t agree with the way someone lives. Just showing Jesus` love. An area I need to grow in!! Learning to have more glasses of grace. That is a phrase I will write down. Loving the people that Jesus has put in my path, neighborhood, etc. I have been looking for a bible study to do….so glad to have found this!!!!! Thanks!!
This is indeed a “sticky” subject. Thank you for sharing. Prayer and grace are needed..
Boy, do I need to do this study! We have two different neighbors who go out of their ways to be rude and inconsiderate and it has made me hate where I live. I, to be honest, stopped trying many years ago and have spent time wishing they were gone or that my family could move.
About 6 years ago, I started taking loving my neighbors seriously and literally. Many doors have been opened to me and it has been an amazing journey. Recently however, I found myself in a sticky situation. My neighbor texted me her go-fund-me page. Not wanting to financially support some things that are draining money, but wanting to support her in her illness. Still praying for guidance. Loving neighbors has been amazing, but I still have much to learn.
I love the opportunities I have to offer kindness, hospitality & grace. It’s the least I can do having accepted the ultimate grace & mercy extended to me.
This is an area, I need to receive God’s grace and do a better job of seeing people and serving through God’s eyes and strength.
When we except Jesus as our savior grace has been given to us by God . We as non believers didn’t understand grace and the sacrifice God made for us so that we could live free of sin. Gods purpose for our lives is to show his love through us. To shine a light in the dark places . We need to remember to look through rose colored glasses at all who we encounter and leave the judgement to God. It’s that wwjd question we need to be asking ourselves daily in our minglings with others.
This post is so good and so true. Such a good reminder of how Jesus treated those who had different beliefs, values and lifestyles. Often, it seems like those were the very people sought after, reached out to, ministered to, lavished His love upon and He befriended them. He certainly didn’t avoid, ostracize, or condemn them like we sometimes end up doing. He always engaged these people with a posture of grace and gentleness. Jesus perfectly demonstrated for us how to “be in the world, but not of it” and “speak the truth in love.” He is the ultimate example for us to follow and emulate when interacting and engaging with others who are different from us. I see in my own life that it’s easy to be self-righteous and judge others choices and behaviors, but instead I need to constantly remember that I am also a sinner in great need of God’s forgiveness and grace and even though the ways I sin may be different from others around me it is still sin and still hurts God, others, and myself. Also, I agree that it’s so important to realize that all people are made in the image of God , have a soul and are in need of Jesus, just like me. Another great point you made is that we are not qualified to judge, neither is it our job or role to judge. Only God is qualified to do that job. Our job is not to condemn (let Him who is without sin cast the first stone) but to pray for those who don’t know Jesus and let the Holy Spirit work in and change their hearts and lives. Sometimes I’m not sure how to relate to those who are very different from me that I don’t have anything in common with and I’d love to learn more from the book, but loving others, affirming their value, listening, and looking for ways to bless them are all key components to being Jesus’ hands and feet to those around us. I would really like to gain insight and wisdom about what to do and how to handle truly “sticky situations.” such those who are living an LGBT lifestyle, adultery, living together before marriage, doing drugs etc. It would be interesting and helpful to learn about how God instructed the Corinthian Christians to live and engage in a worldly and sinful culture, the similarities to our culture today, and how God wants us to live and respond in a culture that is drifting far from God and His ways. I’m glad you shared this post. Thank you for creating these much needed resources and doing this great giveaway!
I struggle with the drinking habits of other parents from my kids sports teams. Instead of hanging out with them and having one or even none, I tend to just avoid the whole bar scene all together, It’s more comfortable- easier. I don’t wag my finger at them, but it is obvious that my lack of participation comes across that way. Thank you for speaking the truth about how to love others like Jesus.
Wow! What an amazing and much needed message!!! So many seem to forget that Jesus was a friend of sinners. And, even though it is TOUGH to walk the fine line of “loving the sinner/hating the sin” He is faithful to lead us each and every step of the way. THANK YOU for broaching this subject.