“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31
This is probably one of the most quoted statements in the Bible. It can be found in numerous places throughout scripture, and we reference it frequently. But, do we really know what it actually means to love our neighbors as ourselves? And, could it be, that we actually love some of our neighbors differently than we love ourselves? If we study the life of Christ we will see that most of the time he heal somebody was on the way to someplace else and he saw somebody that needed help. If you look at the parable of The Good Samaritan he makes that point very clear.
Some find it easy to love the elderly man with tattered jeans, ruffled hair, and a hand-scratched sign begging for help. Others find it easy to love the orphan with the bloated belly who isn’t even old enough to beg. Other people’s hearts are broken for the women who are forced by life’s circumstances into the grips of prostitution. Some find it difficult to love the neighbor who is sitting in the pew right next to them. Others find it difficult to love the neighbor who is sitting in a different pew, in a different Church that doesn’t hold to the same biblical viewpoints.
Others find it difficult to love the white man who works on Wall Street, the black man in political office, the Hispanic woman who’s risen up the corporate ladder, or the Muslim woman who’s fighting for her rights. Some find it difficult to love the foreigners among us. I’m certain that all of us identify with a group of people from a particular life circumstance or background and are filled with compassion and love for them. We find it easy to love those neighbors as we love ourselves.
I’m also certain that all of us struggle—or have struggled—truly loving our neighbor, because our neighbor takes on many forms. Our neighbor is the woman we call a gossip who worships right beside us, the young teen who graffities the neighborhood playground, the teacher whose curriculum we question, and the man who attends a church that’s not in our denomination.
The issue isn’t who our neighbors are and who we’re supposed to love. The issue is our hearts. Who are we? Are we willing to show love, mercy, and compassion? Will we get caught up in who we should help and love, how often we’re supposed to, and how much; or will we simply allow the Holy Spirit to work through us?
What do we mean then by a “lost neighbor”? The term lost refers to someone who does not know where they are. So to us, by us ignoring those God sends us to help, they might as well be lost. We must remember that it’s the things that happen during our travels is what God uses to test our true faith and we will be held accountable if we fail.
We have three things to offer…our time, talent, and treasure, so “if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him” (1 John 3:17)? That’s an excellent question, isn’t it? Perhaps a neighbor, whoever that might be, would reach out for help today. What would be your and my response? “Well, I will pray for you,“ but if “one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that” (James 2:16)? That’s another fine question. The best thing we can do for our neighbor is to love them, and the love of God should compel us to share Christ with them. We need to let them know that God demands perfect righteousness to enter the kingdom, but God provides what He demands through Jesus Christ. Who else is sinless, perfect, and completely holy? There is no reconciliation between us and God without Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). Telling your neighbor that is the most loving thing you could ever do.
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