Love Your Neighbor

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Most Christians are familiar with the Great Commandment. Matthew 22:36-40 says this:

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (NIV)

I’ve been thinking and reading a lot lately about that lately. We hear “love your neighbor” all the time, but do we ever stop to think about what it means?

Who is our neighbor?

Most lessons explaining “love your neighbor” include the Parable of the Good Samaritan. From that parable, we draw that we should help other people, especially those who are different from us.

It’s so easy to keep all of these things in the realm of theory rather than practical things we can do today. What would happen if we were to love our literal neighbors – the people living on each side of us?

Here’s a challenge for you. Think of the people who live in the houses or apartments on each side of you. Do you know their names? Do you know anything about them (like their kids’ names, pets, or professions)? Have you talked with them enough to know their hopes, dreams, fears, and/or spiritual beliefs? How can we love our neighbors if we don’t even know them? (Rom. 10:14-15)

What is one thing you can do this week to get to know one of your neighbors better? Share it in the comments below.

How should we love our neighbor?

While it’s true that we want to eventually share the gospel with our neighbors, we need to guard against loving them only for that reason. People know the difference. If you love someone only because you want something from them (like accepting Christ), your love is hollow and fake. Love them just because Christ loves you and they are your neighbor.

Keep in mind as well what I often tell new Sunday School teachers. Kids will test your boundaries to see if you love them enough to stick to them. Your neighbors will sometimes push the boundaries to test if your love is hollow, fake, and conditional.

For example, your neighbor may insult Christians and do all they can to push your buttons. Will you respond in kind or will you show them God’s unconditional love? It could be that your neighbor has never known unconditional love. It could be that they’re in so much pain that all they can do is lash out. It could be that they’ve been hurt by Christians in the past. Will you add to that or choose to love them anyway? It won’t always be easy, but isn’t that what God does for us?

These ideas have greatly challenged me. I hope they challenge you as well. Please think and pray about them. I know I am. Then ask God to show you how to better love your neighbor.

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