“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
Jesus, in Matthew 22:37-40, states that these are the two greatest commandments. All other teachings, laws, and regulations could be neatly summed up into these two commands. Simple, right? Yes, unless you are trying to wiggle your way out of it and then you ask:
“And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29)
SHE is your neighbor and my neighbor. The woman across the street I wave at but never move the conversation past “hello”. The young mother you see struggling with her toddlers in the church parking lot each week, but you offer nothing more than a kind “I remember those days” smile as you rush to get to your seat. The clerk at the grocery store who smiles at everyone though I know she’s having terrible back pain lately because she shared it with me last week. The difficult co-worker who is like sandpaper to you but is going through a rough patch and could use an ear or a shoulder and you let her know you’re there for her. They are all our neighbor.
There is a verse that tells us to not just hear God’s instructions, but also do what the Word says. (James 1:22) So let’s see what God says about being a SHE and a neighbor. Proverbs 3:27-35 offers good instruction, which, if we followed it, what good neighbors we would be and have.
The end result of this obedience?
“He mocks those who mock but gives grace to the humble. The wise will inherit honor, but He holds up fools to dishonor.” (Proverbs 3:34-35, emphasis mine)
Elsewhere in the Word we see other instructions such as, if you are kind to your neighbor, you will be happy (Proverbs 14:21) and “ Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:10)
Jeremiah 29:7 talks about pursuing the well-being of your city, “Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it thrives, you will thrive.” We can apply that wisdom to our neighborhood and places of employment. Neighbors are all around us.
In fact, Jesus talks about them in Matthew 25:31-46. While this passage is written about Jesus’ return, it also speaks to how we should conduct ourselves as Christians in relation to others. The “goats” saw others in need and did not help, even if it would have been easy to do so. The “sheep” helped others, even when it cost them something. (if you’re confused by “sheep” and “goats”, go read #HisWordsBeforeMine in Matthew!)
What I love about this parable is how personal Jesus makes it. To the sheep he says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me”. (Matthew 25:40) To the goats He says, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.” (Matthew 25:45) How each group responded to their neighbors, was a reflection of how they lived out their faith. Jesus counted kindness toward others as kindness toward Himself and indifference to others as an offense to Him.
There are other passages as well. Spend a little time reading and praying over these:
We see throughout Scripture how we should operate with God’s wisdom. And wouldn’t you know, in the Bible, wisdom is personified as a woman. This should make it easier to apply that wisdom to every She we encounter. She, Wisdom, issues many warnings about the consequences of ignoring her, but she ends her beseeching with, “But whoever listens to me will live securely and be undisturbed by the dread of danger.” (Proverbs 1:33)
The one binding thread you notice in all instruction about neighbors is one word. Love. I think 1 John 4:7-21 best speaks to why this is true. Let’s walk through it, Neighbor.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7)
“Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10)
“No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:12)
“God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in Him.” (1 John 4:16)
“And we have this command from Him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister.” (1 John 4:21)
In his human-ness do you think it was easy for Jesus to be persecuted during His ministry and then willing give His life for us so He could be resurrected for our salvation? Reading the record of His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, I think not. His was the greatest and most extravagant sacrifice. One we certainly do not deserve, but He gave it anyway.
How can we then, choose not love our neighbor, whether it’s easy or hard? How can we not do our best for whoever the She is that God places in our path? Sisters, Neighbors, if you love God, then love your neighbor. Pour out God’s love on her in whatever way you can. And if she doesn’t yet know Jesus, pray your actions will lead her to be a She for Jesus through your faithful “doing” of the Word.
Is She my neighbor? Absolutely yes. Now go love her in Jesus’ name.
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