There is something very striking about the thought that loving our neighbor is interwoven all throughout the Bible. Moses mentions it in Leviticus 19. Jesus called it the second greatest commandment after loving God. The Apostle Paul even connects three of the ten commandments to neighbor love in Romans 13:9:
"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.'”
Here's a fact: God is almost just as much about us loving our neighbors as he is about us loving him.
This is massive!
In fact, at the very heart of the gospel is neighbor love. Jesus became humanity's neighbor by invading our world (uninvited - but after all, he did create it, so...), took on flesh, and then committed the most ultimate act of neighbor love on the cross. The way the world saw Jesus (their new neighbor) was the way we see the worst neighbor we've ever had (and we've all had some bad neighbors; okay, maybe we were the bad neighbors but I've digressed). We hated Jesus. His response? He loved us first before ever demanding we love him in return. Essentially, humanity was the worst neighbor ever. And Jesus, He was the ultimate neighbor!
So what are the implications of Jesus' neighbor-loving ways?
1. Jesus died for our inability to be good neighbors (holy, just, righteous, pure, perfect). That takes off all the pressure.
2. Jesus gave us a standard by which to live. Where our neighbor love tends to be extended towards those around us who are just like us, Jesus set a precedent for loving the unloveable, the marginalized, the outcasts - you know, all the people that make us feel super uncomfortable (which is everyone if you are an introvert like me:). Consider this quote by Tim Keller:
"We instinctively tend to limit for whom we exert ourselves. We do it for people like us, and for people whom we like. Jesus will have none of that. By depicting a Samaritan helping a Jew, Jesus could not have found a more forceful way to say that anyone at all in need - regardless of race, politics, class, and religion - is your neighbor. Not everyone is your brother or sister in faith, but everyone is your neighbor, and you must love your neighbor."
3. Jesus gave us His Holy Spirit to not only teach us about neighbor love (John 14:26) but also to empower us to obey Jesus' teaching (Acts 1:8), or what I like to call dominating Jesus' teaching (by his grace of course!).
The point is pretty clear: This whole neighbor loving thing is a big deal!
The New City Catechism (which I highly recommend) focuses on neighbor love from a heart level while presenting and teaching those tricky final six of THE Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20). By the way, this is such a refreshing approach to something that cultural Christianity for decades has flannel-graphed (if you were born in the 70's or 80's) us into believing that God is about better morals and behavior modification.
Those tricky six commandments (honor mom and dad, don't kill, don't sleep with someone else's spouse, don't steal, don't lie, and don't want something that isn't yours) have so much more to do with your neighbor than they do you. As God has loved us, we in turn WILL love him AND love others...more than ourselves. It really is that simple.
That said, let me get to the real point of this post...
Summer provides yet another grand opportunity for us to love our neighbors well. With all of the activity that we have going on this summer, one of the greatest gifts we can give to our kids especially is to provide them with opportunities that remind them this life isn't about them, but rather God's glory and other's good.
If Jesus has cornered the market on our hearts, and we truly believe he is the hope of the world, then we will take our families on a constant neighbor-loving adventure with the goal that those around us, in our spheres of life and influence will see, know, and experience his great love for them, through our love towards them.
With the help of my friend Kristin Postlethwait, here is a list of ideas for you to love your neighbors well this summer:
- Go on a prayer walk. Be out in the neighborhood and pray for your neighbors as you pass their houses. Pray for God to use your family to make Him famous in your neighborhood.
- Play outside as a family and invite neighborhood kids to join you—keep bottled waters on hand to offer them or maybe even some popsicles.
- Have a few neighbors over for dessert and games—invite them to bring some of their favorite games.
- Host a neighborhood potluck—this is fairly easy because you don’t even have to clean your house! Just set up tables outside and ask everyone to bring a dish to share. You can provide paper products and drinks.
- Host a driveway happy hour and tell people to "BYOB."
- Take meals to neighbors who are sick or have had a new baby, etc.
- Deliver cookies, muffins, or other baked goodies to new neighbors.
- Water plants, watch pets, get mail, and mow the lawn when neighbors go on vacation.
- Invite neighbors to do things you are interested in (organize a fishing derby, a 3-on-3 drive way basketball tournament, or a little girl's tea party).
- Organize a book club for the neighborhood kids that are your kid's age.
- Visit Shriner’s Hospital each month to do crafts with the kids at the outpatient center.
- Help with local a food pantry.
- Visit a nursing home.
Those are a few ideas! Would love to hear your ideas so please comment below.