I’m not always the best at knowing when God’s trying to tell me something, but he’s been so clear lately that even a dummy like me can understand him. God wants me (and you) to become better at loving our neighbor—our literal neighbor.
Matthew 22:37-39 – 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. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (NIV)
What’s a Literal Neighbor?
If you’re not sure what that means, I didn’t quite know what it meant either until recently. A few months ago, my maternal grandmother told a story from her childhood that fully exemplified loving one’s literal neighbor. And it shook me to the core.
When my granny was a young girl, her mother became incredibly sick. She was so sick that she was bedridden for 6 months. This would be a big deal for any family, but this was especially a big deal for a black sharecropper family in the Jim Crow south. My great-grandfather would do his best to keep the family afloat, but he could only do so much. Luckily, my granny’s family had neighbors who loved them well.
For the entire six months of my great-grandmother’s illness, each of the three or four next door neighbors took turns cooking meals and buying groceries for my granny’s family. Those neighbors did this consistently without complaint. And, as far as my granny can remember, her family never missed a meal.
Related Post: You Can Serve, and You Can Serve Well
If we fast forward to today, I’m not even sure if I’d recognize if my neighbors were sick. That’s the truly shameful part. Within just a couple of generations, I’ve become a person that barely knows my neighbors much less loves my neighbors. Sure, I love my metaphorical neighbors, but I’m horrible at loving my literal neighbors.
But I can be fixed and you can be fixed too with the following actions:
Find Out the Names of Your Neighbors
Get Rid of the Façade of Pleasantry
A friend of mine shared with me another sermon on neighboring that her pastor, Rev. Thomas G. James, gave recently. In his sermon, he mentioned that we need to get rid of the façade of pleasantry (i.e. surface-level friendships). The best way to do that is to actually engage with our neighbors on a deeper level—eat with them, mourn with them, celebrate with them, etc.
Be a Conduit for Joy
As Bishop Michael Curry said after this spirit-filled sermon for the royal wedding of Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle, “the world needs a little more joy.” If we get our joy from God through Jesus Christ, we will always have enough joy to then share with our neighbors. That’s the kind of endless joy that will change the world—one neighbor at a time.
If we get our joy from God through Jesus Christ, we will always have enough joy to then share with our neighbors. That's the kind of endless joy that will change the world—one neighbor at a time.