Remember how Jesus summarized everything? Love God. Love your Neighbor. And basically the “loving your neighbor” part is how you know if you love God (read the book of James to have that thought reinforced). So the Great Commandment could read – You will know how much you love God by how you treat your neighbor. Yikes!
Now I happen to believe Jesus is talking about our actual neighbors. These verses have been used with every good intention in mind, but we often forget about our physical next-door-neigbors. It’s easier for me to love “my neighbors” than to actually love my neighbors. I don’t want quotes around this word – I want it to be real. Physical. Actual. So how can we do this? (By the way, if you come to my neighborhood you could go door to door and find out that I WANT to do this more than I actually am – so no high-and-mighty over-confidence here).
Here we go:
1. Know their names. Look to your right and left and across the street (or hall if you’re in a dorm or apartment) and make sure you know their names. You cannot love someone whose name you don’t know. Get first names down. Then work on the last name. Their kids’ names. Pets. Etc. Knowing their names goes a long way – you’ll be surprised. In some ways, knowing people’s names is the beginning to everything good that can come from any relationship.
2. Ask questions. Don’t be weird about this – we’re not part of the CIA. But get to know them. And you can’t know someone if you don’t ask them anything about themselves. So without interrogating them, simply ask things that they’d want to talk about anyway. Everyone loves to talk about their kids. So ask about them. What do they do for a living. Their hobbies. These are the easy, low-risk conversations you can have now.
3. Do something practical to help them out. When you’re mowing your hard “accidentally” mow theirs too. Or shoveling your sidewalk – go ahead and remove their snow too. Help build something with them when you see them outside. Cook something for them. Cookies. Soup. Take it to them. Don’t ask. Just do it.
4. This is a big one – make up a reason to have a party. A gathering. And invite a bunch of them (or just one family) over for a barbecue. Lunch. Dinner. Something with food. Nothing all big and spiritual. Just hang out with them. Think about how many times your neighbors have invited YOU over for a meal. Probably zero! So don’t let make you think they don’t want to – they do. But they’re shy like you are. Get over it and invite them.
5. All of us talk about what’s most important to us. For Chris and I, it’s our friendship with Jesus. We think he’s awesome. There’s no way we wouldn’t talk about him. There’s no agenda to this – we just love him. No sales pitch needed. No Spiritual Laws to be explained. Nothing to sign up for. Just a quick and simple prayer before the meal maybe. Something like “Hey, let’s just thank God for this great food and good friends – so…Thanks God.”
Like most good things in life, this is not rocket science. It’s quite simple. But it’s easy for us to miss the most simple, yet profoundly helpful things in life if we never step out and take the slightest of risks. Go for it. Do it. Today. It’s fun. Helpful. Produces hope and good will. And, oh yeah…it summarizes all of the commandments.