Jesus said, “The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Matthew 22: 34

 

What does Jesus really mean when He quotes this Old Testament passage? He had just responded to a question that was intended to trick Him, and the first half of the answer, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” makes sense; it may be a very challenging thing to do, for it is an impossibility without Christ, and without His ongoing presence in my life, I don’t even come close to living out this command. Still, this second command that Jesus gives to us is in some ways even more challenging.

 

If love my neighbor is expressed in kind acts such as clearing snow from their walks or picking up trash from their front yards, that is no real problem; if it looks like greeting them when I see them, this is fairly easy, too. If my neighbor is defined as the people who live close to me, that is also relatively easy, for they are mostly just like me; therefore, they are rather safe people to engage with, at least at this level. I am absolutely certain that this was not Jesus’ definition of neighbor, for none of this applied to Him; He had no permanent house, He didn’t stay on the same well known street of the same town, and He interacted with a wide range of people, none of them like Him.

 

What Jesus is commanding us to do is a lot bigger and a lot more risky than any of this casual neighborhood interaction, for He is telling us to redefine our concept of neighborhood to include the entire world around us; Christ came to love all of the people of this world in a manner that would bring them back to an intimate, a personal relationship with God. Jesus loved people by engaging with them in their lives, by hearing their sorrows, and by healing their wounds and soothing their greatest fears. He met the soul deep needs of dying people. That is what He commands us to do.

 

As Christ is in us, we must give away His love to the people that live in our neighborhood; this is not an optional part of our lives as Christians, and it is not something that others who are called to be evangelists or missionaries do. This is the second great commandment from God to each of us. Loving others is the actual expression of the first commandment; this is how the Lord wants us to demonstrate our love for Him. Today is the day to ask someone about their life, be interested in the pain in their heart, and today is the day to tell that person about the real, effective answer to your own needs that you have received through Jesus.

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