“For God so loved the world…” so therefore I should too, right? No. God has not asked me, or you, to love the whole world. So don’t waste your time trying.
What I mean is, if an entire world in need becomes my focus more than individuals I can touch in my daily life, I’ll become over-burdened, discouraged and immobilized. If I’m going to do anything about sharing the love of Jesus, I need a much more realistic and accessible focus to remain motivated.
Sure, Jesus pronounced the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 with the whole world in mind, but He gave the Great Commandment of Matthew 22:36-40 so that we would know where to start. Jesus sent us to the world, but He aimed us at our neighbours.
Of course, this is not meant to stand in the way of looking beyond horizons at the thousands of people groups who are yet unreached with the Gospel. The needs of these millions of people are far too important to be ignored. We are called to look out to the fields (John 4:35), but we then need to choose a focus and go for it! Our call is to love our neighbour wherever God leads us to be a part of His harvest.
So, contrary to what we may be tempted to think, we need to focus on less to accomplish more in evangelism. Dr. Jon Bonk writes that, "only if significant numbers of dedicated Christians will think small will anything come of the big plans that our missions, our churches, and our schools might have for the rest of the world. What would have come of God's plans to save the world if Jesus had succumbed to the temptation to think on such a grand scale as to have no time for the blind, the crippled, the little children, the gawking crowds?"
Are there some neighbours God asks us to pay particular attention to? I think so. Jesus saw the harvest fields as being the people who were harassed and helpless with no one to help them (Matt. 9:36-37). Jesus also drew our attention to the hungry, the thirsty, the lonely, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned, and He says that as we touch these who are often treated as the least significant people in our society, we are touching Him (Matt. 25:31-46). Our role in the world is to simply be salt and light as we respond meaningfully to the needs of individuals we encounter who are in need.
So don’t be distracted by the crowds. Look for people in your life that God is drawing your attention to. Look for the harassed and the helpless. Then look for ways you can practically and meaningfully express the love of Jesus in their lives, one neighbour at a time.