Love your neighbor.
It just sort of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? It’s such a nice thought, and pretty much everybody agrees that we ought to do it.
Of course, we do, or at least we think we do. We know Jesus commanded it. We know we’re supposed to love everyone.
James apparently thought it was a big deal. He wrote, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well” (James 2:8).
You may remember that he’s writing this in the context of how Christians shouldn’t treat the rich better than the poor, but he’s quoting something that had been a part of God’s will for a long time (cf. Leviticus 19:18).
He also remembers that Jesus had placed this commandment at the essence of a relationship to God (Matthew 22:39-40).
But what is it? What does it look like? More importantly, how can we know if we’re doing it?
As you probably know, it’s something more substantial than having warm feelings toward people we already like.
It actually doesn’t have much to do with how you feel about people, especially the ones who are already kind to you. Here are a few questions that’ll help us explore it.
- How do we treat the grumpy, stay-on-your-own-lawn-and-keep-to-yourself neighbor?
- How do we respond to the grocery store check-out trainee who took twenty minutes to scan the three things we wanted to buy?
- How do we treat the spouse who often doesn’t really deserve to be treated well?
- Are we good to the people who are different? The ones who are different ethnically? The guy who is incredibly socially awkward? The girl whose past is immoral? The ones who are below (or above) us on the lower-middle-upper class spectrum?
Our faith isn’t really tested much by asking how we treat the people who are kind to us.
To paraphrase Jesus’ words, Everybody does that, even bad people who don’t know God.
We learn about our love for neighbors by looking at how we treat everyone else.
Here’s what we know: we need to work hard at loving people, because there’s amazing consistency on this point from the beginning of the Bible to the end.
Walking with Christ means loving the people around us—all of them, regardless of what they look like, how they act, or what they’ve done. —Chuck