Love Your Neighbor
We aspire to love
As we wrap up the first month of a new year, I have been praying through some aspirational statements the Overseers of LakeView Church came up with a few years ago. These statements don’t necessarily describe who we are right now but rather who we believe God is calling us to become. Below is the third statement.
Our aim is to love others like Jesus does. We aspire to be a people who put the needs of others first. We will love every person unconditionally, recognizing their value as human beings made in God’s image. We will strive to show mercy, extend forgiveness, apologize when we err, and welcome everyone who would come to Jesus.
Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all your being. And the second greatest is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). Loving God goes hand in hand with loving your neighbor. Now, here’s a profound thought:
What if, when Jesus said to love your neighbor, he meant to love your neighbor?
I know… it seems rather like a stretch, doesn’t it? Jesus spoke in riddles and parables. For me to suggest that he meant we should actually love our neighbors… well, it’s just a bit too much.
See, we tend to turn Jesus’s concrete teaching into abstract theology that can be debated and discussed without being practiced. Who is my neighbor? Isn’t everyone my neighbor? Am I really supposed to love every single human being as much as I love myself? That’s overwhelming. I can’t do it. I won’t even try. It’s a nice sentiment but not realistic. If everyone is my neighbor, no one is my neighbor.
But what if Jesus intended us to actually follow his command? (Again, I know this is a radical suggestion, but hang with me here.) A good place to begin loving your neighbor is with an actual neighbor. Yes, your real neighbors across the street. Or the “neighbor” sitting in the next cubicle at work, or the next desk at school. Real people, not theoretical ones.
It’s much easier to write a check that will bless needy people on the other side of the planet than show kindness to the grumpy old man next door. In reality, we need both checks for the needy and love for the people we live and/or work next to.
Who is someone you can show kindness to this week? A real person, not a theoretical one? Make a plan and do it.