The Faith Revolution Podcast with Kirk & Jenn Walden
In this episode, “Love Your Neighbor”, Kirk and Jenn discuss how a more literal interpretation of Jesus’ words sparked new opportunities and lessons in loving the people most directly in their paths.
- Reflecting on your own neighborhood, how do you see God’s hand in your story?
- What are specific simple steps you can take to better love your neighbors?
References (Click Link)
Kirk: This is Kirk.
Jenn: And this is Jenn.
Kirk: And welcome to The Faith Revolution Podcast today. It’s going to be an interesting day, because we’re going to be talking about practical ways to love your neighbor. And when I talk about loving our neighbor, it’s easy to say, “Oh, we all know how to do that. We’ve read the story in the Bible,” and all those things, but today we’re going to take a different look. And I think it’s going to challenge . . . It challenged my perceptions when we looked at it, and I know, as we’ve talked about it, we’ve had new things continue to pop up. So I want to jump right in, and I wanto to talk to Jenn and ask her a little bit about loving our neighbor, and how this all began. Just go.
Jenn: Okay. [chuckle] My first moment of thinking, “Oh goodness, we have something different. There’s a new way to look at this,” was, we were walking down the street in our current neighborhood, and you, Kirk Walden, looked at me and said, “You know, I think, when God says love your neighbor . . .”
Kirk: Yeah. He meant it.
Jenn: He meant it. [chuckle]
Kirk: When Jesus said that, he meant it. And that was just kind of strange–I hadn’t thought about that before. But he was not only talking in the big picture. We know the story of the good Samaritan, where he talks about loving your neighbor. But what about our neighbor on the street? And in our previous neighborhood, we didn’t have bad relationships, but we just didn’t have a lot of connection with our neighbors, did we?
Jenn: No, and just to put it in context, you are an extrovert. You will talk to anyone.
Kirk: I love it. If I go into a store, I’m going to say, “Hey, how you doing?” When I check into a hotel, I get to know people, and all those things. It’s just my thing.
Jenn: You’re that person where, everybody knows your name. When you go into the post office, or a place where you are a frequent visitor, people know who you are. That is you, Kirk Walden.
Kirk: And at the bank, do I go through the drive through?
Jenn: Oh, heck no.
Kirk: I have to go inside. So, we are, right now, podcasting in the middle of the COVID epidemic, and it’s killing me, because I can’t go inside the bank. It’s all remote, and it’s just tough.
Jenn: So that’s who you are. I, on the other hand, am an introvert. Some people really don’t believe me when I say that, but it’s very uncomfortable, for me especially, to converse with someone I don’t know. If I know you, we’re great, but if I don’t know you, it makes me really stressed. So that has been our marriage, and that’s been my growth in the last years of being married to you.
Kirk: Well, you say you hide behind me, but when we go out and see people or whatever. But fact of the matter is, when people see you, they are drawn to you, and I think a lot of people, I’m glad you shared that. Because a lot of people, I don’t think, realize that you are an introvert. So here we are, in our old neighborhood, rocking along, we end up needing to move.
My mom moves in with us, she had had a stroke, and we need a new place where we can create a landing pad for her. She had been downstairs in a house where most everything is upstairs. She couldn’t be going up and down stairs for years, so we needed a new home. Take us from there, Jenn.
Jenn: So, you would think this wouldn’t be hard, but we had a lot of needs. We had a lot going on with our home. You work out of our house. When you’re not traveling, you’re home constantly. We home school. So, that’s another component of life. We have older children, so we’re constantly entertaining. We’re constantly having people come and go. So we had really specific needs for a home.
We looked and looked, we couldn’t find one. We put an offer on one house. It was funny because, the house across from Moss Wright Park, we loved that house. But yet, there was something for both of us we weren’t sure about, and yet it had the space that we needed. We put an offer in and we said, you know that story better than I do.
Kirk: Yeah. They were wanting a little bit more, and we went up a little bit more, and we were competing with somebody else. And I looked at you, and we just weren’t convinced. And I said, “If they want 1,000 more dollars, we’re out.” And we’re talking the price of a house, so this isn’t like a car, where you’d really haggle over it. We’re talking a couple of bucks a month. That’s it. But we decided, 1,000 more dollars and we’re out, and they came back wanting 1,000 more dollars. And we were out, and so we were back at square one. A couple of weeks later, we thought we had another house.
Kirk: And I remember, I was in the Midway Airport in Chicago. You were at church or something, it was Sunday morning.
Jenn: We were putting an offer on the house that day. I was meeting with our realtor that day to put an offer on the house. And so, then, what happened from there is, I’m planning on us doing this. I’m like, “This is gonna be our house.” I felt pretty confident.
Kirk: And somebody comes up to you at church, and says?
Jenn: “Hey, I hear that you are wanting to get a new home to accommodate the changes in your life. I just happen to have a piece of property. I want you to look at it, and if you want it . . .”
Not only that, but this person is a contractor. “I will help build the house you need.” Mic drop. I was like, “What? This is insane.” So I went out that day, I called you. I’m like, “Honey, you’ve got to see this property.”
Kirk: And I remember exactly where I was. I was between A and B terminals at Midway Airport in Chicago. I’m right outside the bookstore that I love to frequent when I’m going through there, because they’ve got a wider variety than any bookstore I run into on the road. Well, just about. There’s one in Dallas . . . We won’t go into all that. But I’m in there, and we say, “Okay, we’re going for it. And we’re going to go see this lot.” We called the realtor and said, “We’re sorry, go ahead and sell the house we’ve got.”
Jenn: Which we hate, because we just love him. Our realtor, we just love him. And it was sad.
Kirk: Yeah, it really was. But he sold the house we had.
Kirk: Sold it for more than we thought we’d get for it, and we move into this new neighborhood. And so, I guess we’d say, all this to bring us back to what we’re talking about, loving our neighbor. We believe God placed us here.
Jenn: And it’s funny ’cause I just heard a pastor speak out of Texas. It’s actually where our sister-in-law and brother-in-law attend church, and we listened to a service from their pastor. And he was saying that he really believes God places us where we are to be in communities. It’s no accident that that’s your neighborhood and that’s your hood. And that really resonated with me, because it made me think back to our own story of how we ended up in this place, and I just… You will not convince me that God didn’t place us here.
Kirk: So, here we are, walking down the street.
Kirk: Talking about loving our neighbor. And it hit me. What if, in addition to all the global stuff that Jesus was talking about, he’s also talking about our neighbor, right next door? Are we loving our neighbors? Now, we weren’t against our neighbors, let’s not say that.
Kirk: But we didn’t really know them. I’d say hi, that would be it. But we decided, right then and there, we’re going to be a little more intentional about getting to know our neighbors. We didn’t have a great plan in place, or anything like that, but we just began to shift our thinking. Is that fair?
Jenn: That’s fair. And I think that I knew in my heart when you said it, it meant something big. I didn’t fully understand at that moment what it meant, but I knew, “This is real, and this is gonna be a journey, and it’s in an important journey.”
Kirk: I know. And the thing for me is, I’ve read books on say, Evangelism and things like that, and I’ve read the studies by the Barna Group and all that, that say, “X percent of Christians have never shared their faith with their neighbor.” And I’m intimidated by that, because I think, “Okay, if Jesus said love my neighbor, then I need to be out there sharing my faith, I need to be talking to them, I need to be doing all these things, and I need to have a plan, I need to have an agenda.” And all of a sudden, I’m intimidated and overwhelmed. Until we step back, and I realize, Jesus didn’t say, “Share your faith with your neighbor.” Now, I know there’s gonna be some push back on that, and I get it. I wanna address that. But first, Jesus didn’t say, “Share me, share your faith with your neighbor.” He said, in that particular context, “Love your neighbor.”
Jenn: Right. And I think that’s such an important discussion for us to have, because I think that when we talk about… It almost is a totally separate podcast, but when we talk about, “What does it mean to share our faith with our neighbor?” I think that we have to be careful, because what does that mean? Of course, I’m gonna share my faith with my neighbor, because that radiates who I am. But am I going to evangelize my neighbor? Those, to me, are very separate questions. It might demand a whole separate discussion for us. But for the purposes of what we’re talking about today, how do we love our neighbor? ‘Cause if I love you, my faith is gonna just pour out on you, if I love you. So, to separate those two things for this discussion, I think, is important.
Kirk: Yeah, I wanna separate, because you’re exactly right. What happened for me over the years was, because I was so intimidated by the idea that I needed… Any relationship with a neighbor had to lead to Evangelism. So, instead of doing anything, I just got nervous, stepped back, and so, any outreach I did was based in the context of ministry work or church work, and I skipped right over my neighbor.
Kirk: That was my problem. And so, going back and saying, “Hey, he said love your neighbor.” Now, the push back comes from those who would say, “And rightly so. Jesus said, ‘Go and make disciples too,’ didn’t he? And aren’t your neighbors people you would want to?” And I go, “Absolutely.” But if we look at that carefully, he was saying, “As you go, make disciples,” not, “Go make disciples,” necessarily. “As you go.” And I have found… I don’t mean to be skipping ahead, but I have found that I have had strong, incredible faith discussions with my neighbors just by getting to know them. It just happens.
Jenn: So, to help us, so we’ve given our backstory about where we both come from. For me, my introversion, and I also think, you’re telling your story of what your perspective was on neighbors. I think my whole life I have lived through that lens of relationships through the lens of Evangelism, more than I could have ever imagined. If I can’t have a personal faith relationship with you, it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be nice to you. It didn’t mean I wouldn’t smile. But my investment in you was very low if I didn’t see the faith perspective, if I didn’t see the word Evangelism kind of… I’m gonna use that, even though that’s not really how I thought. But if that wasn’t present, then my investment in you was gonna be super low. ‘Cause I’m gonna be real: I had an agenda.
Kirk: Yeah, and that’s what intimidated me is, I felt like I had to have an agenda, because I’m failing God if I don’t have an agenda. My goodness, if I can’t be evangelizing with this person, then why am I giving them my shovel? What’s the use? I’ve got to do something along with it, instead of just loving my neighbor. And that’s been a challenge for me over the years. I didn’t realize it because I’m involved in ministries, I had the opportunity to share my faith bunches of times. And so, hey, that’s good, isn’t it, God? And I had church, could invite people to church, all those type of things, taught Sunday school, did all the things that I needed to do. I am sharing my faith, I’m doing good, so why… What is the neighbor thing, where does that fit in? Well, in my mind, well, I guess it doesn’t have to, really. I need to be nice to my neighbors, but that’s about it. And so, I never got involved in those relationships. And it’s been amazing, as we decided intentionally, “Hey, let’s just love our neighbors. Let’s look to be a little more intentional,” that I have had some incredibly personal discussions, which I obviously won’t go into here, with several of my neighbors that I don’t think I would have had otherwise. Well, they’ve shared challenges and different things with me that I don’t think we would have otherwise. You don’t get that just walking by and waving your hand.
Jenn: Yeah. And I think that… I’m gonna try to transition into this. Another cool God moment through all of this was, when we first moved in, we just barely had moved in and I got a knock on the door. And I opened the door and there’s this cute little lady, she’s actually quite a bit younger than me, in her, probably late 20s, early 30s. And she has a gift for me. And she’s just a ray of sunshine. And at the time, I took… What she handed me was a candle and a note, and I just… Wow. It was very special. But I wanna point that out, because it’d be about another year or so before you and I would go on that walk, and you would tell me love your neighbor, it really means love your neighbor, but she actually ended up being a very influential, and still is a very influential person, on how I see some of this. And I would love to interview her, eventually, about this topic, but Melinda, I love that lady. She was doing the very thing we’re talking about, and we would end up having a lot of conversations about it.
Jenn: But a God moment, it’ll be like, the moment we moved into this house, that’s to me, this sign of what God was calling us to do, is her giving me this gift. And later, we’d end up having quite a relationship with her that’s been really special, but with a lot of neighbors. And she had already been laying the groundwork for community, really, without agenda.
Kirk: And they did that. They had a dinner over at their house, around Easter time, and people came, and I don’t think everybody shared the same faith, or whatever, but they just had one, and it was fun, kids were playing in the yard, and everybody had a blast. And we got to know neighbors we wouldn’t have otherwise known, which has built some relationships that we wouldn’t have otherwise had. ‘Cause we’d had never even known where they live, now we now their house, we go by and wave. And you’ve had coffee with one a few times, and stuff like that.
Jenn: Yeah, and it just built from there. It did. That was a cool moment. So, I digress a little bit, but, where do we wanna go from here?
Kirk: Well, I think you’re right on track, because we’re talking about loving without agenda. And we weren’t gonna throw this out there. We were thinking, “Oh, we’ll leave this out,” but I’m gonna put it on the table. One of the things we decided to do was just have an ice cream, social. And we’re not here to give ideas and say, “Do this, do this and do this,” because everybody is different.
But for us, we just had ice cream, we didn’t think anybody would show up. We were afraid that no one would show up. And it’s funny, because we just said, “Bring your own toppings. We’ll have the ice cream.” And we set a time, gonna be on our back deck patio or whatever, inside the house. Our neighbors down the street came early, who we didn’t really know, we had seen them one or two times. And now, they’ve become some of our closest friends. But they came because they felt sorry for us, ’cause they were afraid maybe nobody would show up. But we…
Kirk: Do you remember that?
Jenn: Yes. We love you, Russ and Kelly. [laughter]
Kirk: We really do. And we had, I think, 55, 56 people show up. They just came from everywhere. A couple brought a dog and a child, and kids were everywhere, and it was just a blast. And so, as we talk about this, I don’t wanna make a list for people. “This is what you need to do. You need to bake brownies when they move in. You need to… ” None of that. What is it that’s comfortable for you? That’s the thing that I wanna focus on. What works?
Jenn: I think this is such an important point you’re making, because, especially women. I’ve read books, there are some really popular books right now out there about how we love our neighbors, or how we reach out to people, and how we’re supposed to use our home for God’s glory. And some of it makes me cringe, because I feel like we’re putting burdens on people about what they’re… It’s just another rule. It’s more legalism about what it means to be a good Christ follower. And I’m sorry, it’s not the same for everyone. And I wanna be really transparent about something on my end, and I hope, maybe it helps you understand my feeling about this topic. I love having people over. We always have. That’s who we are, our home is known as people. We love to have people over. But, here’s my little secret. I don’t feel like I’m a good cook. It’s a proven fact. Even though you’ll say, “Oh, Jennifer… ”
Kirk: As a husband, I must interject here and say she is a fantastic cook. She has low self esteem in the cookery area, but she’s a great cook.
Jenn: [laughter] Well, okay, so my thing is, for example, if I’m gonna go to a party with some girlfriends, I’m not that person where everybody says, “Oh Jenn, you’ve gotta bring that thing you make.” And you’re laughing, Kirk, because you know it’s true.
Kirk: I’m only smiling because I know it’s funny, but not because I know it’s true.
Jenn: [chuckle] So I’m that person that’s like, “Oh, why don’t you bring the cups, and you can bring the paper goods?” It’s just the way it is. If I am gonna bring food, I am stopping by the store on the way. It’s just my thing.
Kirk: Well, you gotta tell the story of our neighbors up the street, who had a child in the hospital, and your plan was?
Jenn: So, Eric and Wendy, we really love them, they’re become very precious to us, but they were going through a very hard time, and I wanted to reach out to them and do something special. So, I’m like, “I’m gonna cook them a meal.” And so, just to put my perspective, I remember when we had Josh, who’s now 12, and it was a really hard season of being in and out the hospital and he…
Kirk: He was in the ICU for five days.
Jenn: And I was having some health problems myself. It was just a scary time. And people, oh my goodness, how kind they were, and brought us meals, gourmet meals. I was just blown away. But then, for me as a woman, I’m like, “I wanna be able to do that for people.” Okay.
Kirk: It’s the woman rule, yeah, that is.
Jenn: It is. It’s what you do.
Kirk: You gotta be a good casserole person, or whatever it is.
Jenn: Yes. So, here are Eric and Wendy, and I’m like, “Oh, I get to do something for them. I’m gonna make my mom’s beef stew. Yay.” Now, never mind the fact, ’cause I love that stew. I thought. “I’m gonna keep it simple. I’m gonna make it easy for myself. I’m gonna make beef stew, I’m gonna make enough for us, I’m gonna make enough for them.” I put it together, I take it over to their house. I’m loving on them, “I’m so glad I could do something for you guys,” and blah, blah, blah. I go home, we sit down to eat dinner, and I take my first bite and I’m like, “Oh my goodness. This meat is like shoe leather. It’s awful.” It was not done, it had not cooked long enough. And so, I am texting Wendy back as soon as… I’m like, “Wendy, I’m so sorry. The stew is not done.” And there was no way it was gonna be done in time. I took their dinner to them at 5:00. [chuckle] That stew needed several hours on the stove, still.
I have had to humble myself and realize that for me, loving somebody doesn’t look like it will be for my friends who can throw together a gourmet meal.
So, I felt like such a failure, but I’m saying that to say, I have had to humble myself and realize that for me, loving somebody doesn’t look like it will be for my friends who can throw together a gourmet meal. For me, it may mean a gift card to Chick-fil-a or Panera, or it may mean something totally different. It just isn’t gonna look the way I want it to, but I had to learn that’s okay, love anyways.
Kirk: That’s right. And I think part of that is, small steps lead to freedom for me. I thought I had to do the whole thing. I don’t. I can just go over and say, “Hey.” I see a guy working in his yard, or if he’s… We’ve got one that’s building a home for his RV that is gonna be great. And so, we visited through that process as he’s dealt with construction issues and things like that. It’s been a blast. We just talk. Ask a few questions, talk to another guy about just what’s going on in his world, and it’s just great that I don’t have to do everything. I don’t have to have a plan. You talked about it earlier. I don’t have to have an agenda.
Kirk: In fact, one of the things that jumps out at me is something we’ve talked about a good bit. Sometimes, we may only be a sentence in someone else’s story. Let’s make it a good sentence.
And I say “Good,” because, popped into my mind. How about memorable? How about amazing? All these things, and I go back to Jesus and he said, “I’m the good shepherd,” meaning, consistent trustworthy, “You can count on me to do the shepherding thing well.” My sentence is a good one. It may not be… Hey, I may end up being a paragraph in this guy’s story. I can be a whole chapter, I don’t know. But if I’m only going to be a sentence, let me make it a good one. Let me make it one that he goes, “I could read that sentence again.”
Jenn: Right, and without the agenda of someone becoming your project, or your checklist. They’re just a creation of God who’s worthy of getting to know, and care about, without me feeling like they’re my…
They are just a creation of God who is worthy of getting to know, and care about, without me feeling like they’re my project.
Kirk: Project. Just what we said. They’re not our project, they’re not our agenda. And the hard thing for me is, because I count… You know, I go back to, say, the Book of Acts or something like that, and I say, “They counted how many their number, and all this kind of stuff.” And so, I feel like I need to count, too. In this case, Jesus just said, “Love your neighbor.” You don’t have to count certain things. You don’t have to go through the checklist, moving them toward a certain point, if you love them. And this is where faith comes in. This whole podcast is about faith revolution, simple faith, multiplying our faith, all those things. Simple faith is loving our neighbor. But here’s the challenge. Faith is knowing that if I love my neighbor well, that neighbor, we have faith that God is going to reach out to that neighbor, and the opportunities, if necessary, for us to grasp, those opportunities will come. That’s faith. Because I feel like I gotta take it on myself, and I gotta say, “Okay God, this is what I need to do.” “I’m not asking you to do that, Kirk. I’m asking you, just love your neighbor. Just do that. Don’t worry. I’ll provide opportunities, if they’re for you.”
Jenn: I love it. It’s funny because the pastor I heard from Texas that I mentioned earlier, he made the point that we rationalize who our neighbors are, and I have done it. But he made the point, the word neighbor in and of itself means those who are near to you. And I think it means physically, the people in your path. I think it relates to where you live, where you work, where you shop, you eat. I think this is a much wider application. But I think, when we look at it a different way, when we look at what loving people means, I think, from a more deep perspective, it makes it a lot easier, ’cause we don’t have this load on ourselves that we’re carrying, that I have to witness and evangelize. My faith is shared in a different context, of just basic love and kindness, and patience, and care.
Kirk: Well, when Jesus told the story of the good samaritan, He was walking by and somebody happened to be near, so that was his neighbor. And the other thing is, we can look at Jesus, and while he was a pretty darn good evangelist, that was kind of his job, you notice he would heal somebody, he would be a good neighbor. But only a couple of times does he say, “Now, come and follow me.” That’s not the main thing. He heals them, then they’ve gotta make a decision. And so, as we reach out to people, sometimes they’re in a wounded state, they’re in a tough spot. In any way you can, maybe it is just that sentence. Maybe it’s a chapter, maybe… Whatever it is.
We may only be a sentence in someone’s story. Let’s be a good one.
Kirk: But we don’t have to do all the things we think we have to do. We just don’t. And I think, if we could realize that freedom, what’s our takeaway today? I think there’s a freedom in knowing we may only be a sentence in someone’s story. Let’s be a good one. We don’t have to have an agenda. That would be number two. One word sentence. Number two, we don’t have to have an agenda. We don’t have to feel the pressure of walking through this process to get our neighbor to a certain point. Love is going to be enough. Look for open doors, sure. And the third one is, do what works for you, because we’re not all great cooks. I still think, I’m gonna say this again, I still think she’s a great cook. I don’t know what happened to that beef, but she makes great beef stew.
Jenn: If that were the only story, then we’d be okay, but it’s just a long history of fails. But, yeah, I think what you’re saying is so important. It is sometimes as simple as a smile. It’s as simple as a wave. It’s as simple as, “Hey, are you doing okay? Are you guys good?” And I have to point this out really fast. We are in the middle of the quarantine. And one of the things that this new mindset has done for me, I think there’s a lot of fear throughout our country right now and that hurts my heart for people. But I know for me, there has been such a comfort in knowing that I have a relationship with the people right here with me in my neighborhood, the people I get to visibly see daily, and we look at each other and we know, yeah, this is crazy, isn’t it? This is a hard time, but we’re there for each other. We’ve had neighbors say, “Hey, you got everything you need? You got your toilet paper?” ‘Cause you know that’s such a big thing right now. “Do you have food? How’s your job going?” And we’re able to do the same for others. And that has made me have a sense of peace and calm through this, that if we didn’t know our neighbors, I just don’t know how that would feel. I think it’d feel pretty scary. It’d be very isolating. So that’s been an unexpected consequence of this new attitude we have about loving the people right beside us.
Kirk: Yeah, it’s a great benefit. And as we go through these takeaways, I think the final one would be this. What is one thing I can do that tells my neighbor, “Hey, I’m here.” What is it for me that works? And if we can do one small thing, and I remember a podcaster once said, “Do for one what you wish you could do for all.” You don’t have to do the whole neighborhood. Who’s one? What’s one thing? Every step takes us closer to loving our neighbor. So, a different look at loving our neighbor, been kind of fun, it’s been a good discussion. And now, I guess, our thing is, let’s go out and do that very thing. It’s challenging, it’s sometimes intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be comfortable, it can be joyful, and it can be life changing, maybe for them, but certainly for us.
Jenn: And considering everything we’ve been facing as a world population, I think we’ve seen so many great examples of people loving their neighbor. And to me, as the Body of Christ, this should be a shot in the arm about what it looks like to really love people that are right in our path and nearest to us.
Kirk: Love it. Let’s call it a day. Thanks for joining us on the Faith Revolution Podcast.