To do most things in life there is a prerequisite. Or, should we say, a recommended prerequisite? Let’s say you want to bake a pie. Unless you’ve honed your baking skills (a prerequisite), you may want to Google some directions, right? Of course, then you have to purchase the ingredients, preheat the oven, and so forth.
What you don’t do is just bake a pie.
This same scenario can be applied to things all throughout your life. There is usually always a prerequisite – something always needs to happen before something else can occur. And, guess what? There is a prerequisite to loving thy neighbor, too.
“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love – not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But, if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.”
– 1 John 4:9-11 (NLT)
The Importance of Loving Thy Neighbor
When something is important we repeat it and emphasize it, right? As a teenager takes the car out, we remind him or her to be careful, pay attention, and to leave the cell phone alone. When a supervisor gives us a project to work on, we repeat it and briefly elaborate to ensure complete understanding. And, when a doctor wants you to take a particular prescription, he or she may stress the importance of taking it regularly.
Learning that we are to love our neighbors is so important – perhaps that is why it is written at least 8 times throughout the Bible. Plus, Jesus spoke about it in parable and God even commanded it. That’s right – he commanded it.
“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
The words written on every page of the Bible are intentional. And, a command from God is nowhere near similar to, say, a statement with a shoulder shrug. What if the Bible said, “Eh, go on and love your neighbor if you feel like it and if they are nice. You don’t have to. And you can love some and not others, like those who don’t deserve it. Loving thy neighbor is kinda important?”
Would we take the importance of this statement as seriously? Probably not. But, when God commands that we do something, there is no misconception. It is not up for debate. It is set in stone, literally.
You are to love thy neighbor. End of discussion. ✋🏻
Like we discussed previously, there is always a prerequisite to the things we do. So, can you simply – and truly – just love your neighbor?
You must complete these prerequisites first.
❤ Accepting God’s love
Before you can show genuine love to others, you need to know and understand what love is. True, unconditional love. You know, the type of love you receive only from your Father. To love others, you have to understand how to love. God shows us that.
“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love – not that we loved God, but that he loved us…” – 1 John 4:9-10 (NLT)
❤ Learning to love yourself
Remember how the full statement reads: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ How do you love yourself? Do you even love yourself? If you have not fully embraced everything that you are and fallen head over heels for yourself, then how can you love someone as yourself?
You have to find your own worth before you can begin to find it in others.
Here’s What it Really Means to Love Thy Neighbor
Once you have accepted and worked on the above, coming to accept God’s love and loving yourself, only then will you be ready to be there for your neighbors. It is important to understand that loving your neighbors is not just a simple task. Instead, it requires your entire self to be selfless. It requires you to show compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and provide service and meet needs to and for your neighbors.
To honestly love your neighbors, you must give…
❤ Compassion: Compassion is an action, not simply a sympathetic feeling. When you are compassionate, you are there for your neighbors, regardless of what he/she/or they are going through. You lend a hand, offer an embrace, and an open ear.
❤ Kindness: You never know what is going on in someone else’s life. In today’s world, we live behind closed doors, creating the reality we want on social media while living the reality we have within our own private boundaries. Be kind. Go above and beyond what is expected of you to show a softer side; to show love. After all, the person you may think doesn’t need it may need your kindness most of all.
❤ Sharing: As quickly as we receive something, it can be taken away. Our blessings are not ours to hoard and indulge in. They are meant for us to share. If you have something and you see someone else doesn’t, then share. This includes your faith. Luke 3:11 says, “…If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”
❤ Forgiving: Oh, how God has forgiven you and me. Who are we to not forgive others? I know, it is hard. Of course it is – that is why forgiveness is so great and powerful. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be as meaningful, would it? Think about it – we even pray it regularly when saying The Lord’s Prayer, from Matthew 6 – “Forgives us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
It is a good idea to practice what you pray, I say.
❤ Service: Finally, serve your neighbors. Allowing yourself to put humility into practice is what happens when you serve your neighbors. Let them know that you are there for them if they need anything – then, truly be there. Whether it is babysitting, a car ride, cleaning, or even a simple cup of sugar.
Who Are Your Neighbors?
Before we end this blog, it may be a good idea to clarify the term neighbors. The first thing that comes to mind for most of us is the next-door neighbor or the family that lives across the street, right? Well, they sure are your neighbors, especially in the literal meaning of the word. But, loving your neighbors means loving those you are in community with and those you aren’t. Those who live in your neighborhood and those who don’t. Those who work with you, go to school with you or even serve you at your local coffee shop.
Loving thy neighbor does not stop with those right around your residence. Your neighbor is everyone, including the least of these.
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth when you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me.” – Matthew 25:40
Go on, spread some love.