“Love your neighbor as yourself” is the “Royal Law” of Scripture (James 2:8-17). Learn by relying upon Christ to keep this law from your heart and everything else in life falls into place.
Love God and love your neighbor as yourself — the two sides of Jesus’ Greatest Commandment go together so that you can’t truly do one without the other (Mark 12:30-31). I can’t love my neighbor unless I’m standing in the Kingdom of God, enjoying a love relationship with Jesus Christ and his Father, by the Holy Spirit. And I might think I’m loving God earnestly because of my devotions or my ministry but if I’m not loving my neighbor than I’m fooling myself.
What Does it Look Like to Love Your Neighbor?
But who is my neighbor? Jesus answered in the Parable of the Good Samaritan saying that your neighbor is not just the person who lives on your street — it’s whoever you happen to stumble upon as you go about your daily life (Luke 10:25-37).
The neighborhood of our relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances is the practical context in which we learn what it really means to love God. We get to see to what extent God’s love really lives in us by how much it shows in our character as we relate with the people in our circle of influence.
It’s easy to talk about loving the Lord but am I really doing this? It’s easy to roll up my sleeves for a special project and serve God by helping the needy but what kind of person am I actually in daily life, even when no one is watching?
To love our neighbor is to seek what is good for him or her. It’s to be kind and patient with the people we live and work with. It’s to be generous to strangers that we happen upon at the grocery store or on Facebook. It’s the “Little Way” that Theresé of Liseux wrote about centuries ago and it’s “The Winning Shot” in life — rarely applauded by people, but always applauded by angels and saints who give praise to God when they see the eternal Christ of love reflected in mortal human beings.
The Test of True Love for Your Neighbor
How am I doing with sharing the love of Christ with the people around me? How are you doing? These questions are a test of character, a tough test at that!
- When I feel criticized do I react with defensiveness or anger or do I offer a blessing?
- When a rude driver cuts me off on the road do I have compassion or prayers for him or her?
- Do I offer a friendly greeting to people when they come nearby?
- Do I show respect for other people by being on time for engagements?
- When someone shares a disappointment do I pray silently as I listen?
- When I hear news about another person do I treat it as curious gossip or do I quietly offer up a short prayer to God for that person?
- When a friend has a great success am I happy for him or her or do I get tied up in jealousy or competitiveness?
- In competitive sports or games do I have compassion and respect for those who lose?
- When I’m under stress am I patient and kind with the people around me?
- When I’m not in public do I treat my family and close friends with gentleness and generosity?
- When I’m concentrating hard on my work and I’m interrupted by someone who needs something do I respond with lovingkindness?
- How long does it take me to pray for God’s help when I lose something?
- How long does it take me to pray for God’s help when an ambulance races by with sirens blaring and lights flashing?
- When I see someone who is hungry do I share my food with him or her?
- When I’m in a group do I notice the person who is left out and take initiative to offer my blessing?
- Do other people feel safe to be emotionally vulnerable with me?
- When I hurt or offend someone do I apologize and show concern for how that person felt?
How Did You Do?
All of us will find that we fail to love our neighbor sometimes. If you’re like me, some of these questions surface areas that you don’t typically offer God’s love to the person near you. In some cases you’ve probably never even thought about that specific example being an opportunity to love your neighbor!
Our response to discovering our shortcomings is itself an important test of character. Do I deny my sin or weakness or do I seek God’s mercy through Christ? Do I seek to learn from Jesus and rely on the Holy Spirit to become a more loving person?