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Love your neighbors

July 12, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Posted in: Love

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

The first time I heard Jesus’ great commandment, which is found in Matthew 22:34-40, my seven year-old brain assumed that “love your neighbor” meant to love the Heaths and the Blooms, the two families who lived next door to us. Eventually, of course, I came to understand that Jesus’ exhortation was not meant to be taken literally, but that my neighbor was any other human being (even our enemies, as Jesus illustrates in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:29-37).

But what if Jesus really did mean to truly focus on loving our actual neighbors, the ones that live around us?

In Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon’s book The Art of Neighboring, the authors discuss how to make “love your neighbor” something that actually happens in your own neighborhood. They recount a meeting that a group of pastors in their city had with the mayor in order to ask him the simple question of how the churches could best work together to serve the city. After a discussion of the many social problems facing the city, the mayor said something that deeply impacted the pastors: “The majority of the issues that our community is facing would be eliminated or drastically reduced if we could just figure out a way to become a community of great neighbors.”

Think about that for a minute. The mayor shared with the pastors that government programs aren’t always the most effective way to address social issues (shocker…). Relationships, he continued, are often more effective because they are organic and ongoing. When neighbors are in relationship with each other, the elderly shut-in gets cared for by the person next door, the at-risk kid gets mentored by a dad who lives on the block, and so on.

Jay Pathak shares that after the mayor left, he said to the other pastors, “Am I the only one here who is a little bit embarrassed? I mean, here we were asking the mayor how we can best serve the city, and he basically tells us that it would be great if we could just get our people to obey the second half of the Great Commandment.”

Take a minute and think about where you live. Can you name your six closest neighbors? Do you have a close enough relationship with them that you know where they work, who is in their family, or even what sort of challenges they might be facing?

Summer is a great time to go deeper with your relationship with your neighbors. You can stop by and say hi when someone is outside, go for a walk around the block, even invite people over for a barbecue or host a block party. As you go deeper with those who live around you, you begin to find organic ways to live out Jesus’ exhortation to love your neighbor.


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