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29 June 2017

5 ways to show love in society today

5 ways to show love in society today

by Roger Sutton, director of Gather UK

1. Love your neighbour
Jesus was very simple in his response to the strategy on how to love society: to love your neighbour. This love can show itself in a multitude of ways, but it's probably best to think about what action or reaction is the most loving thing to do to the person who is my neighbour. Who my neighbour is, in the most general sense, is anyone who I come across in my life. My work colleagues, friends, family, and people I meet in everyday life, at the supermarket checkout or the bus stop.

However, I would put out a plea to particularly love those who are your actual neighbours. Each area will create different opportunities and challenges. Our council estate in a deprived area gives us opportunities at the moment to put bins out, take cats to the vets and be part of the allotment society. We used to live in a very wealthy area where dinner parties and social gatherings were cultural opportunities to show love. Whatever the context, do you know those who live close to you – the needs they have and the challenges they are facing? Respond to those needs as best you can.

2. Listen
One of the simplest ways to show love to people is to simply listen. We live in a culture that is constantly communicating. I believe this is because people don't feel sufficiently listened to, so they keep on talking and looking for a gap in the conversation to talk again. Social media is all about getting my post out there, my views, my personal brand. The only way to subvert this is to listen and keep listening. It's about active listening with all senses. Listening is not something that just happens – that's hearing – listening is an active process in which a conscious decision is made to listen to and understand the messages of the speaker.

Active listening is also about patience; pauses and short periods of silence should be accepted. Listeners should not be tempted to jump in with questions or comments every time there are a few seconds of silence. Active listening involves giving the other person time to explore their thoughts and feelings, they should, therefore, be given adequate time for that. Make sure you smile, give good eye contact and body language, ask questions that help the person clarify what they are thinking about and help summarise that thinking.

3. Love your civic leaders
A few years ago we got all our church leaders in the borough to hold a thank you breakfast for all the senior leaders of civic society. We invited the leaders of the council, the main directors, the head of the police, health and housing and other organisations. We found out later they were waiting for us to either ask them for something or harangue them about an issue, but we didn't, we just said thank you to them for their service to the community and asked if there was anything we could do to help. The director for waste services had tears in his eyes after the meeting. He said to me he had never been thanked in 30 years of service. Unity movements in cities and towns often have similar meetings with civic leaders and it is a very practical way of showing love.

4. Love your local charity
Another way to show love as a church in society is find out about local charities and support organisations who may not have Christian foundations, but do some wonderful work in the area caring for the most vulnerable. Try to build a friendship with them and ask if you can support them in their work. As a church, we supported our local citizen's advice, environmental groups, local college and other great organisations. It helped us integrate into the area and serve more people.

5. Pray for your neighbour
One of the most effective ways of loving people is to simply bring them before God in prayer – to hold them before the Father to pray for their needs and challenges and to ask God to meet them. This may give you an opportunity to talk about faith, it will certainly give you an opportunity to tell them you are praying for them and ask if there is a specific need they have. Most non- Christian people I have told I'm praying for them have seen it as an expression of love, an act of care and attention to their needs.

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