The general understanding seems to be that as long as we are friendly and cordial to our neighbors on the off-chance that we happen to run into one of them between home and work, we have met this requirement admirably. And that's only for the "neighbors" we actually can identify and have had some sort of prior contact with. To complete strangers, we may not even be quite that nice.
Everyone is familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan. We all remember what this stranger did for the man who was beat up and robbed. This story is recounted so often and in so many contexts that even people who have never read a single word of scripture are familiar enough with the story to be able to tell most of the relevant details. Yet, we seem to continually miss the point.
You see, loving our neighbor is more than simply not being mean and nasty to them. Love, understood in the way Jesus intended it, is a verb. It denotes action. Loving our neighbor is about getting to know them, finding out what they need and helping them.
Love is about offering to watch the children of the single mom down the street so she can go to a job interview. Love is helping with yard work for the widow a few doors down who just lost her husband of 50+ years. It's being a positive role model for the young boys who lost their dad and no longer have a father figure.
What do we do to actively show love to the people we meet every day? How do we carry out Jesus' command to "love one another...?"
I know it is difficult not to sound like I'm beating up on the Church, but I'm really not. If I am, I'm beating myself up, too. After all, I'm not so arrogant as to think that I'm not included in the group of people I'm referring to. I probably know the first names (and only the first names) of three people outside of my own house and the nearest 15 homes in my neighborhood.
Let's commit to do better. Let's actually actively show our neighbors that we care. This isn't just you and it isn't just me. It's all of us...together.
For more resources:
- The Art of Neighboring - Jay Pathak
- To Love Your Neighbor, You Must Know Your Neighbor - The Gospel Coalition