“Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” – Luke 10:25-29.
Who are the most memorable neighbors on TV shows? There have been hundreds of favorite next-door friends and neighbors like Kramer (Seinfeld), Ross Gellar (Friends) and Wilson Wilson (Home Improvement). Who didn’t cringe every time Steve Urkel entered the set and opened his mouth, whining, “Did I do that?” Who didn’t want to live in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and listen to his stories? Who didn’t feel bad for Mr. Wilson living next to Dennis the Menace? And who didn’t laugh at Fred and Ethyl Mertz or remember our first love watching Winnie Cooper in The Wonder Years? Jesus instructed us to love our neighbor as ourselves, as we read in Matthew 22:39.
The Bible says “love thy neighbor.” That command brings up the question of, then “who is my neighbor?” The dictionary defines a neighbor as “a person living near or next door to the speaker or person referred to.” Love thy neighbor cannot refer to only loving the person or persons who live on the same street or the house directly next and across from mine. To the Christian, the dictionary definition and the Bible definition are two different things.
It is easy to equate neighbor with a nearby house or residence. But the Bible does not view neighbor as a structure, but as an individual. The woman waiting at Starbucks for her coffee is a neighbor. The man who cut you off in traffic is a neighbor. The Uber driver who picked you up is a neighbor. And the lady at Publix whose kids just ran into your legs with their grocery cart, they too are your neighbor.
Everywhere you go, near and far you will will find a neighbor. And that neighbor is a person God loves and that we should love as well. So who is “my neighbor?” They are the people who live around us, live amongst us, people we are living through and with. These are our neighbors. It is a large and extensive community to be sure.
It is not easy to love your neighbor as yourself. We can put “love” into a box and say “oh yeah, I love my neighbor.” But do you really? Do you know your neighbor? A person’s name is a start, but what about their story, their likes and dislikes, their dreams, their wishes and wants. You have to be intentional and purposeful and want a relationship. I can know the teller at the bank by name, but until I have a relationship and act on her needs when given the opportunity, I am not loving her as a neighbor.
- Why is it important to love our neighbors?
- Is loving our neighbors an extension of our love for God and our love for ourselves?
- Which people in your world are easiest to love, and why? Which people are toughest to love, and why?
- What can we do this week to better love others?