“I know I’m suppose to love my neighbor but how do I know what to do?” That is the question. What does it mean for me today – right now – to practically love my neighbor? There are charities and ministries which need volunteers but most of the time, God is calling us to love our neighbors informally.
There are four actions one must take to love their neighbor well. These are not four steps, as in, finish step one and then move on to step two. If you’re neighbor’s house is burning down then you need to take action. Don’t pray about it – take action. But if your self- sufficient neighbor won’t give you the time of day, pray that God would open a door into their their life. Don’t force yourself into a relationship until the time is right.
Look, learn, lean and labor.
Open your eyes to the people around you. Does that boy across the street come home to an empty house every day? Which homes have elderly in them? Make choices to put yourself in the lives of others by going for walks, riding the bus or shopping at the same corner store.
Ask questions, both in your mind and verbally, about the people and situations you see. Make a point of talking to the older residents of your community about the past and what they see happening currently in your neighborhood. Read books about the history of your community. Attend community meetings. Read community blogs. Follow neighborhood people on twitter.
Lean on God and your network of family and friends for advice and help. Confess to the Lord your own lack of love and the need for His grace in your life to give you motivation to love others. Pray for wisdom. Ask God for understanding. Seek advice from wise men and women. Ask for help in serving those around you. Become an advocate for those vulnerable people you know. Be a relational bridge builder with different people in your community.
Take action. Be creative is serving people. Cook meals for the sick. Play ball with the boy without a father. Go to the store for the elder neighbor. Share you life with those around you.
Two side points: Loving our neighbors does not earn us favor with God. If our hope is in Jesus, God’s favor is secure. But loving our neighbor is a sure sign that God has been at work in our lives. As the apostle John puts it, “We love because he first loved us.” Secondly, loving our neighbors may or may not lead to more verbal explanation of the gospel. Be ready to explain the hope that is in you but do not love people only in order to get a chance to share Jesus with someone.
The call to love our neighbors works move like a web of activity than a step-by-step coordinated effort. Laboring leads to more learning, which leads to more leaning (Help Lord!!) which leads to more looking. The order is not important.
Step into the web of neighborly love today. And as we do this, only God knows what good might happen.