Love Thy Neighbor?

11 07 2012

Jesus was asked His opinion about what the greatest commandment was in Matthew 22:34-40. He gave a two-part reply and enumerated the two great commandments. The first is to love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul. Ok, that was expected. The second took us off guard; love thy neighbor. The first one is easy, who can not love a God who is perfect, fair, merciful, forgiving, and understanding? But our neighbor? They are often hard to even like; they hold grudges, do not want anything to do with you, believe all evil reports about you, and is often unfair in their dealings with you. Love thy neighbor? Am I my neighbors keeper? Can’t we just ignore one another for the sake of peace and quiet?

First a few disclaimers…. Some neighbors are extremely difficult to get along with, some prefer to have nothing to do with you, some are hard to like for many assorted reasons. Loving your neighbor does not mean you have to like them or be best friends with them. Jesus defines the love of neighbor in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. The Samaritan did not know his “neighbor”, but he cared for his basic needs when the going was tough for him. Being a good neighbor is more of how you treat them than how you feel about them.

How should I treat my neighbor?

1. Be loving
Jesus gave the standard, as thyself. Love is not just the avoidance of doing evil, but also the positive doing of good. Love says I will forgive you, I will return the rake as soon as I am done using it, I will be friendly and still respect your privacy, I will keep my visits short and sweet.

2. Be real
Don’t lie to your neighbor, with your words or your inconsistent testimony. If they see you going to church on Sunday, don’t be hypocritical in your behavior. Don’t cuss out your kids or treat your wife like dirt or party hardy or yell at the paperboy.

3. Be aware
Be aware of acts of mercy that you could show. As unpredictable as life is, you may get many opportunities. A mother dies, a son is injured in a serious accident, a diagnosis of cancer, a loss of a job, a theft or fire, or whatever. You don’t have to smother your neighbor, just be sensitive to their needs.

4. Be helpful
You look out for their good not just to keep the peace, but because you are motivated by the love of Christ. Nothing hurts the cause of Christ more than being a bad neighbor.

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