‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”Mark 12:30-31 NIV
You know what’s difficult to do sometimes?
Love those who treat us poorly.
You know what’s super easy to do?
Get angry, hold a grudge, gossip, and then block and stalk from social media.
But God expects more from us than petty grievances. Even if those grievances feel justified because we have been wronged.
God doesn’t expect us to only love those who love us back. He doesn’t expect us to be kind to only those who are in our same social circles, or who do kind acts toward us first. Galatians 3:27-29 tells us “…For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” And James warns us in Chapter 2 that showing discrimination is considered a sin – that any and every one should feel welcome and cared for among Christians.
Because God expects more from us. Because we are His people; we are a living representation of His grace, His forgiveness, and His salvation. And we need to spend our days showing that to everyone we come into contact with, no matter who they are.
To those we love. To those who have treated us unfairly. To those in need. To those we don’t know or don’t know very well. To those who live next door to us and those who live on the other side of the tracks. To everyone.
I don’t just consider my neighbor to be the person I share a sidewalk with. My neighbor is the person running next to me on the treadmill at the gym. It’s the car that cuts me off in traffic, the mom in front of me in the pickup lane, the child waiting for the bus at the corner of my street. It’s the person in the same aisle as me at the grocery store, and it’s the homeless man on the corner holding his sign.
When I read this verse, I interpret my neighbor as my fellow human.
“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”matthew 25:40
5 Easy Ways How to Love Your Neighbor
Remember when showing random acts of kindness was a trend a few years ago? You know.. the person in front of you in line at Starbucks would surprise you by paying for your coffee, so then you’d pay it forward by doing the same for someone else in a similar way that day? (For the record, nobody in front of me in any line has ever paid for anything for me.. so I’m a little bummed about this one).
Easy ways to love thy neighbor is to extend kindness. This can be as simple as paying it forward and paying for someone’s coffee, but it also can involve non-monetary acts of kindness. Bringing in baked goods when it’s someone’s birthday at your office, writing a letter of thanks to your teacher, holding the door open for someone, giving food to the homeless man on the corner.. those are all small acts of kindness that take very little effort but have the opportunity to create a big impact in someone else’s day.
Pray For Them
Prayer is something else that is free. I can’t remember when I started this habit, I think it extends back to the time I was a kid, but every time I hear sirens or see lights flashing I say a quick prayer that God will bless and be with whoever needs His help at that point in time.
I made the comment to Cooper once that I do that, and now it’s something that he does as well. Stopping to say a prayer for those in need, and even those who we don’t know may be in need – is a big way we can show our neighbors love.
Saying a prayer for blessings and health for our actual neighbors, and praying for those who wrong us.
Lend a Helping Hand
“Let me know if you need anything!” Is a pretty common catchphrase when someone is going through a hard time. We all do it, and I think most of us mean well. If someone did respond back with something they needed I know that I would try and do what I could help to help fulfill that need.
But the next time someone is going through a hard time, instead of offering your thoughts and an open-ended “I’m here if you need something!” Genuinely do something instead.
I love this article from The Today Show because it’s such a great example of a friend doing just that: offering up something legitimately helpful and of substance instead of waiting around to be needed.
It’s easy to get sucked in the drama, but let’s be real: ain’t nobody got time for that.
Avoid gossip (and certainly don’t spread it), and avoid conflict when you can. When people do wrong by you, use that as an opportunity to let God’s light shine through you by remaining peaceful, and instead of persecuting those who persecute you – pray for them.
If you remember the James Bible Study we learn to avoid favoritism and discrimination, and instead – show fairness and love to everyone we come into contact with.
“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.”James 2:8-9
Next time you find yourself singling someone out for the wrong reasons, or labeling someone or someones based on beliefs, disagreements, trivial matters, or even big matters – stop and pray that God help you remain fair. It doesn’t mean that you have to agree with something you feel is wrong – but it means that as Christians, it’s not our job to judge, but to love, and to testify – so that others may see God’s mercy through us and yearn to be closer to Him.
Loving your neighbor is not always easy, but it’s worth it. Look for small ways each and every day where you can make a positive impact. The more you do it (just like with anything – the more you practice the better you become), the easier it will be until it becomes second nature.