How to Actually Love Your Neighbor
Written by Phylicia Masonheimer | February 27, 2017
Most of us know the Golden Rule: “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (Mark 12:30). We learn it as early as kindergarten and return to it in Sunday school. But do we actually live out what it says?
When Jesus articulated this commandment in Luke 10, one of his listeners was quick to ask, “Who is my neighbor?” This wasn’t a simple question; the asker was “seeking to justify himself” (v. 29) for refusing to love the people around him. Jesus responded by sharing the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). To Jesus’ Jewish audience, Samaritans were outcasts of society and unworthy of association. Yet Jesus pointed out that the Samaritan’s love for his neighbor—an injured, needy stranger who just happened to cross his path—pleased God far more than the “righteous” people who ignored their neighbor’s need.
Today, God puts people in our path at work, on our street, in the grocery store. Too often we are consumed with our phones and our own comfort, too “busy” to love our neighbors as ourselves. But this is the second greatest commandment! We are called to love our neighbors just like the Good Samaritan, and here are four ways to start.
Acknowledge Who They Are
To love our neighbors, we must first acknowledge that they exist. Do you know who lives next to you on the street? In the apartment above yours? Do you see the same cashier every Monday? These people are your neighbors!
The first step to love is acknowledging other people as fellow immortal souls, people who need to know God. You might be the only picture of Christ they get for a very long time. Don’t waste that opportunity.
Take an Interest in Their Lives
Once you know who your neighbors are, take an interest in their lives. Get to know their families: how many kids they have, their pets, their priorities. Bring them cookies when you move to the neighborhood, or when they move to yours. Introduce yourself, strike up a conversation and ask about them.
This works with the cashier in the grocery store, too. She probably has a pretty monotonous job—you might be the only spark of joy she gets that day. To make people feel known is a reflection of God’s loving knowledge.
Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
It’s hard to love our neighbors. It doesn’t come naturally! But this is precisely why Jesus articulated how necessary it is. If it were easy, why would He need to tell us how to do it?
My husband and I have moved three times to three different states. Each time, we used holidays like Valentine’s Day and Christmas as opportunities to share love with our neighbors. I’d make cookies and we’d deliver them to our apartment complex or the houses down our street. This was extremely uncomfortable for me every single time! But we were always so glad after we did it.
Be Consistently Present
Finally, be present with your neighbors. Be consistently available—as your schedule allows—with your coworkers, family, friends and acquaintances. At the end of our lives, what will really matter: how much we got done or how well we loved?
God says it’s the latter.