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Love Your Neighbor

You never know who is suffering. A small gesture or words of encouragement can go a long way. By Sarai Phay
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A new family moved in across the hall in my apartment building this past fall. They seemed very pleasant, and they always stopped to chat. On Halloween, they left a bowl of treats by the mailboxes for everyone. I thought, “Wow, that is super sweet of them.” Then one day this past December, I was heading out to borrow an extension cord. My new neighbor happened to be at the elevator, and we chatted for a bit. She offered one from her house—even though she had her hands full with her kids. Then, on New Year’s Eve, they left a little party kit for my family outside our door with kazoos, chocolate and popcorn.

Why do I share this with you? First, I was grateful to have a neighbor who cared. They were thoughtful and generous, even when it wasn’t convenient or expected. Second, I felt convicted. I hadn’t really cared for my neighbors in an intentional way—well, other than common courtesy like holding a door or saying good morning. I realized that nothing sets me apart from anyone else. I’d had plenty of opportunities to care for my neighbors since moving there. What was holding me back?

What Does “Neighbor” Look Like? 

In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan in response to an expert of the law who asks, “And who is my neighbor?” Here’s a quick recap of this well-known parable. Jesus explains that a man was traveling towards Jericho when he was robbed, beaten and left for dead. Several individuals passed him, but didn’t stop to help. One was a priest who ignored his needs. Another Levite man saw him and kept walking as well. And then finally, one individual stopped and helped—a Samaritan.

Now, the crowd Jesus was speaking to would’ve known the context and importance of the helper being a Samaritan. He wasn’t a likely candidate because Jews and Samaritans hated each other. But the Samaritan loved with an unbiased, selfless love. In fact, he went above and beyond by bandaging the traveler’s wounds, escorting him to an inn and covering the costs as he healed.

“You never know who is suffering. A small gesture or words of encouragement can go a long way.”

Jesus is calling us to love each other without borders and conditions. So, who is our neighbor? Anyone who has a need: a friend or foe, a beggar, a prostitute, a mom with three screaming kids, an elder who needs a hand, an atheist—anyone, really.

Love Always Wins

Jesus’s message is simple: love one another. Throughout His life, Jesus helped and loved people—especially the marginalized. Now this isn’t easy to put into practice. We get busy and fill our lives up with people and things. With the influence of technology, we are more self-involved and we rarely connect with anyone outside of our circle.  However, if we don’t create opportunities to encounter others like Jesus did, we won’t recognize their needs or be moved to act.

Philippians 2:4 (ESV) reminds us, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” I challenge you to look consciously at the world around you with a selfless approach. Ask yourself: What impact would I have on those around me if I cared for others like Jesus did?

Loving your neighbor is a lifestyle that will show others how Jesus has changed your life. The first step is to look around you. Find opportunities to pay attention to others. Start small with getting to know your local cashier or barista. Ask them how they are doing and listen. Instead of scrolling through Instagram, send a text to a classmate or coworker who you know has been struggling. Offer to let someone go ahead of you in line, even if it’s inconvenient. Make eye contact and greet someone who others might not speak to. You never know who is suffering. A small gesture or words of encouragement can go a long way.

My new neighbors didn’t save my kid’s life or offer to pay my rent. They cared for my family in small yet impactful ways. They reminded me how important and simple it is to love others. I believe we can all start loving others in the same way.

I’ll leave you with a prayer found in 1 Peter 4:8-11 (NIV), “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gifts you have received to serve others … if anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

For Further Study

Bible passages about loving others:

  • Luke 5:12-15
  • Luke 7:36-50
  • Luke 10:25-37
  • Luke 19:1-10
  • Matthew 9:35-38
  • Mark 10: 46-52
  • Mark 10:13-16

Explore

7 Ways to Show Love to Strangers: https://bit.ly/38ENrCr

100 Ways to Engage Your Neighborhood: https://bit.ly/2SW5HAv

9 Ways You Can Help the Homeless: https://bit.ly/2u5Wygi

Learn how to help someone in an unhealthy or abusive relationship at thehotline.org/help/help-for-friends-and-family/

Find 5 action steps to help someone in your life that might be in crisis at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/participate/

Read:

Radical Kindness by Angela Santomero

Loving My Actual Neighbor by Alexandra Kuykendall

Breaking the Mold: Pursuing a Life of Servanthood by Brian and Alicia Rose

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Sarai Phay has worked at The Salvation Army for nearly nine years in multiple roles within youth and women’s ministries. She currently lives in San Francisco, CA with her husband and two children. As a creative soul, Sarai loves crocheting and creating DIY costumes or interior design projects.

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