What are your plans for the summer?
Maybe summer is a time of rest for you, offering a break from school or time off for vacation. Perhaps it is your busy season, or a time when you take a “summer job.”
Wherever you find yourself and whatever you might be doing this summer, know that you can make a real impact, every day, on the people around you. Whatever your schedule or your role, as a follower of Christ, your real “job” laid out by Scripture is to love God and love your neighbor.
The Main Thing
Loving God and loving your neighbor is really all you have to do in life. For anyone who thinks that the Bible is a long list of rules, Scripture actually makes it clear that all of God’s commandments can be summed up with those two laws of love (Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 13:9-10; Galatians 5:14). Loving your neighbor as yourself—which means treating them the way you want to be treated—is known as the “Golden Rule” (Matthew 7:12) and the “royal law” (James 2:8).
Of course, there are a lot of different tasks that can fit under the broad umbrella of loving your neighbor. Maybe loving your neighbor right now looks like buying someone lunch, sharing the gospel, or serving your employer and colleagues at work. You have to decide what to do each day in order to live that out, and we will all fail to do it perfectly at times. But if you are wondering whether you should do a certain thing, asking “Does this somehow help me love God or love my neighbor?” is a good place to start.
Your main job is to love God and love your neighbor. But who is your neighbor?
You Are the Neighbor
The exact question “Who is my neighbor?” was asked to Jesus. He answered by turning the question around. He told the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and asked, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” In other words, it wasn’t about figuring out who counts as your neighbor, but whether you count as a neighbor to others. You can “prove to be a neighbor” to anyone you choose, but you can also prove to not be a neighbor when you fail to love and serve others.
You can live right next to someone for years and not be their neighbor at all. Conversely, you can be a neighbor to someone you’ve never even met (sponsoring a child in El Salvador through Compassion would be an example).
It’s clear that Jesus wants us to serve as a neighbor to others, because He said to “Go, and do likewise.” Be like the Good Samaritan, who saw a stranger in a ditch and decided to help him out. Instead of asking whether someone is your neighbor, ask how you can be a neighbor to them.
It’s Not Easy
There’s a reason why we have to be reminded to love our neighbors, and why we often fail to make it a priority. It’s because being a good neighbor is costly. Just like in the story of the Good Samaritan, serving other people always costs time and/or resources. It is not always fun, and not always well-received. We are all naturally selfish, and it is easier to focus on what you want rather than humbly considering other people’s interests ahead of your own (Philippians 2:3-4).
However, that is also what makes loving your neighbor such a powerful act. It shows that you are one of God’s people (John 13:34-35) as you demonstrate His love to all people. In loving your neighbor, you follow the example of Jesus (John 13:12-15), who humbly chose to serve and sacrifice His own comfort in order to save us (Matthew 20:25-28; Philippians 2:5-8).
Make a Difference
Although it is not always easy, it is worthwhile. Sometimes a simple invite can lead to tears of joy. Or a contentious coworker will finally be open to the truth. Going out of your way to love a neighbor can impact more than just the person you are trying to serve, as others may want to know the source of such selflessness (1 John 4:19).
This summer (and every season), seek to share God’s love by loving your neighbor. For ideas on how to do so, check back here next week.