How Do I Love My Neighbors?

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and
with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:37-40
 When the Pharisees asked Jesus about which was the greatest commandment, they weren’t asking because they didn’t know, they were asking to try to trip Jesus up. The issue became less about what they asked and more about their motive and their heart.

Today, when we read this exchange between Jesus and the spiritual leaders of his day, the question we typically ask is “who is my neighbor?” Which all too often really means, “who do I have to love?”
And for us also, the issue becomes less about what we ask and more about our motive and our heart.

Because in trying to identify “who is” our neighbor, aren’t we also labeling “who isn’t” our neighbor?

Aren’t we compiling two lists – those I have to love and those I don’t?
Now, I really want y’all to understand that this is NOT being written from atop my soapbox; oh no. This is coming from a low place of conviction, my fingers are typing but my toes are bruised. This is God talking to me and saying, “Oh, you have a ministry? That’s nice, so who are you ministering to exactly?”
You see, what God has convicted of me is this:
It’s easier to love the idea of loving people, than to actually love other people.
It’s easy to love the neighbors who are like me. It’s easy to love the neighbors where I want to go. It’s easy to love the neighbors inside my comfort zone. It’s easy to love the neighbors who agree with me.
But loving others isn’t about them, where they are or who they are - it’s about me, it’s about who I am – a child of God – and where I am – in my relationship with Christ.

So the real question is NOT “who is my neighbor” but: What must I DO to BE a neighbor?

In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus is asked again about the greatest commandment and this time he gives us the parable of the good Samaritan and answers our question – what must I do to be a neighbor?

"vs 29 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead."
1. Some avoid the needs when they encounter others
vs 31 "A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side."
  •  Am I so consumed by my own needs that I become oblivious to the needs of others? 
  • Am I losing sight of those I am ministering to as I am trying to maintain my ministry?

2. Some assess the needs but never meet the need.
vs 32 "So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side."
  • Am I becoming an expert about reading people without ever reaching people?
  • Am I praying for ‘someone’ to come meet the need and not actually meeting the need myself?

3. Some address the need when it is seen
vs 33 "But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’"
  • Am I willing to get dirty in meeting the need? [bandaged his wounds] 
  • Am I willing to be inconvenienced to meet the need? [gave him a ride] 
  • Am I willing to sacrifice the cost to meet the need? [paid the bill]
  • Am I willing to spend my time to meet the need? [hindered his plans]

It’s easy to live as if Christianity is just coming to church to fill me up and not worry about anybody else.

*      *     *
It’s easy to say I love others, and just walk right past the hurting assuming someone else will meet the need.
*      *      *
It’s easy to NOT be a neighbor, because loving our neighbors as ourselves, demands sacrifice.

Just as Jesus asked then, he is asking us now:
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Go and do likewise . . . GO and BE a neighbor

I would love to hear from you. How has someone been a neighbor to you? How has God led you to be a neighbor to someone? Join the conversation below in the comments.

Blessings Soul Friends,
Sweet to the Soul FAITH is our quarterly magazine for women inspiring generations. 

Dive Deeper - 7 Scriptures About Loving Your Neighbor

Read through each of the Scriptures below and prayerfully ask God to place someone on your heart related to each verse. Then make a plan and determine a specific way you can love this neighbor. 

Leviticus 19:18
"You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD."

John 15:12
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."

Romans 13:8-10
"Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."

Romans 15:2
"Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up."

1 John 4:21
"And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother."

Colossians 3:12-14
"Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."

Ephesians 4:25
"Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another."


Download a free color page of the Scripture art of Mark 12:31 by Vera Vin.
Jana Kennedy Spicer is a born and raised Texas girl who has a heart for studying God’s Word and is passionate about encouraging women to do the same. She is the author of Let Your Light Shine: Being a Light in a Dark World; Praying For Revival; Inspiring Women: Who They Are and How To Be One and Gracious Words: Speaking with Kindness and Mercy; and the illustrator of the scripture based Garden of Life Coloring Book and Coloring the Scriptures.

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