I have been pondering this concept over the last year and have come to the conclusion that we are not naturally good at loving our neighbour. So many of us get up, rush around and get ready for work, rush out the door, sit at a computer all day doing work, rush home and in the front door without too many thoughts about our neighbours. Our neighbours might come to mind if we hear of a tragic story in the news but then we go back to our self absorbed lives.
How can we change this behaviour?
We could go to the bible and look at the context of the loving your neighbour phrase and see the following…
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.‘ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. Mark 12:30-31
OK then that means I first and foremost need to work at really loving God and then I will be in the position to go on and love my neighbour. Simple problem solved!
Well, unfortunately I would argue that is not the case! We can see examples of people trying to love God through regular attendance at a church service, participation in a bible study group, and opening their homes up to other people who are looking to love the Lord but still are no more loving of their neighbour than the average Joe Blogs down the street. The other problem with this example is people outside the church see these people as “the chosen” or “the pure” who shut themselves off from the world around them. Obviously we are not succeeding in loving our neighbour with this method! At the extreme this could lead to behaviour such as we see in the prophets when people are confronted by God and he accuses them of empty worship and religious practices while they neglect the poor and the marginalised (their neighbours) – Amos.
Thus, we need to combine loving God and our neighbour and I would like to propose that loving our neighbour is a form of loving God (Matthew 25:40).
So how do we go about loving our neighbour (changing our behaviour)? Lets start out small…
- ask God to change your heart towards your neighbours
- start praying for your neighbours – maybe you could set a time each day to pray for a certain number of people.
- poke your head over the fence and introduce yourself to your neighbours.
- invite your neighbours over for a snack / drink / meal – use Christmas celebrations as the perfect excuse ;).
- add an extra can to your shopping trolley each week and donate it to the local foodbank.
- say a kind word to the person who scanned your groceries through at the store – see them as a person rather than as a service.
- invite someone you know who is going to be celebrating Christmas alone to join in your family Christmas Day meal.
- make a meal and take it over to a neighbour how is house bound or sick.
- take something new that you have never worn down to the local charity shop and donate it.
All the above suggestions are purposefully small…once you have succeeded in introducing some of them into your day to day life have a think and pray about something bigger that you could expand into to love your neighbour. Always remembering that your neighbour is not only your physical next door neighbour. They maybe your work colleagues, members of your sports team, people in the wider community that you haven’t meet yet, or even people in another country!