When Jesus said that all the commandments can be summed up in loving God and loving our neighbors, he was on to something. What would happen if we all just did what Jesus said to do? What if we get to know our actual neighbors? This sounds simple, but it’s easy to miss.
So let’s turn this around for a moment. Sometimes it’s easier to see how not following the brilliance of Jesus can hurt us. Imagine what happens when people love each other well. Now imagine what happens when we don’t love those who live next door. Odds are good that we will experience the following:
Isolation. We will live lonely lives. It’s far too easy to leave our house every morning with our head down. We grind it out at work, come back home, and hurry inside. We never get to know the people around us, and they don’t get to know us.
Fear. We will be wary of our neighbors, and they will be wary of us. Whatever is unknown is scary. So when we don’t know our neighbors and they don’t know us, it’s easy to imagine the worst.
Misunderstanding. When we don’t know our neighbors, it’s easy to get the wrong idea about one another. For instance, a friend of ours had a neighbor whose house was run down. The garage door was falling off the hinges. Two dead cars sat out front. So he called code enforcement, and officials came by and ticketed the house. A few days later he was talking to another neighbor about the blighted house. “Yeah,” said the neighbor. “I guess the woman who lives in that home lives alone, and her mother has cancer. She had to stop working to care for her mom. She’s been by her mom’s bedside twenty-four hours a day for the past few months.” You can imagine how horrible our friend felt once he got the full story.
Throughout the Bible, God tells us to love our neighbors. He emphasizes that along with loving him, this is the most important thing we can do. God invites us to love the way he loves. He challenges us to put our love into action.
Pathak, Jay, and Dave Runyon. 2012. The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.