We are called to love God and love our neighbors. That is really all we have to do; it summarizes “all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).
But how do we put that into practice? It is a safe bet that none of us love our neighbors perfectly; we could use some help to grow in that area.
Here are some ways you that can become a better neighbor:
Change Your Perspective
Being a good neighbor starts with having the right attitude.
When you see someone in need—or someone who maybe doesn’t technically need help, but who you could still serve in some way—what is your response? It’s natural to feel sympathy (“Gee, that must be hard”) thankfulness (“Glad that’s not me!”), or even numb indifference (“Not my responsibility”). But what if you chose to make it your responsibility?
Seek to have a “host mentality.” If someone is a guest inside your home, you are the host: you try to make them feel welcomed, take care of their needs, and handle any problems that arise. Having a host mentality means that you have that same attitude not only at your house, but throughout your neighborhood, your workplace, or wherever you go. See someone who is hungry? A good host would offer them food. Know a neighbor who is lonely? A host would go talk to them and make sure they feel welcome. It’s a way to live out Philippians 2:3-4, considering other people’s needs ahead of your own.
In the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), the priest and the Levite saw a man lying hurt along the side of the road and just passed on by. They decided that the man’s problems weren’t their responsibility; after all, it wasn’t their ditch he was lying in. The Samaritan, on the other hand, chose to make it his problem. He bound up the hurt man’s wounds and paid for his care. Like a host, he decided, “That’s my ditch. Someone in my ditch needs help, so I’m going to help him.” We are to “go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). Have a “that’s my ditch” attitude.
Loving your neighbor takes time, which can be difficult in a world where it seems like everyone is busy. For instance, how many times have you seen someone’s car broken down on the side of the road, but just kept driving because you were on a tight schedule and didn’t want to be late?
To be available to love your neighbor, you have to have margin in your life. You’ll probably have to say “No” to some things so that you can say “Yes” to serving others. That extends to your budget, as well; helping people sometimes means giving financially, such as donating to a food bank or buying someone lunch.
Loving God and loving your neighbor is your job description. If you are too busy to do that, you are just too busy.
Prayer should be the first thing you do, the last thing you do, and what you do in-between.
Selflessly and sacrificially loving your neighbor does not come naturally (Romans 7:18); it is something you can only do with God’s help (John 15:5). Pray for a heart to love others and see them the way God does. Pray for opportunities to share that love with your neighbors. Pray for your neighbors, and offer to pray with them.
If you like to keep your prayer life organized, the free website Bless Every Home can send reminders to pray for specific neighbors and help you keep track of which neighbors you’ve prayed for, cared for, or shared the gospel with.
Ways to Love Your Neighbor
So, what are some practical ways you can love and serve your neighbors?
Sometimes, the opportunity will be obvious. If a storm knocks a tree down on your neighbor’s house, and you have the ability to help, you go over and help.
Usually, though, you’ll have to be a bit more proactive. You can seek out or create ways to serve others in your neighborhood, workplace, city, and world.
- In your neighborhood: Although loving your neighbor doesn’t have to mean the person who literally lives next door to you, your neighborhood is still the best place to start. These are people you see all the time. If they need help, you can be there in a moment. There are endless possibilities for how you can serve your neighbor; here is a list of ideas to help spark your imagination.
- In your workplace: Loving people at work starts with being a godly worker (or a godly employer). It’s been said that corporate America is one of the darkest mission fields anywhere, and you get to be a light there (Matthew 5:14-16). Instead of paying money to travel overseas and share the gospel through an interpreter, you can get paid to show up at work and share the gospel with people who speak the same language. Check out our resources on how to live out your faith at work, and check back here in a couple of weeks for advice on how to host a workplace Bible study.
- In your city: You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when there are already trusted ministry partners that you can serve with or support financially. Here are some examples of how you can help feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, and visit those who are sick or in prison (Matthew 25:35-40).
- In your world: Whether it means traveling overseas or investing in the people who live there, there are multiple opportunities to engage with the world outside our home.
Don’t get overwhelmed by the options or think you have to do it perfectly; just get the ball rolling by doing something. You can love your neighbor in ways big or small; by getting creative or by faithfully serving in a very uncreative, obvious way. When you do, you help demonstrate God’s love to them, and demonstrate to them that you are one of God’s people (John 13:34-35).