“Hidey Ho, Neighbor.” Who doesn’t remember hearing this friendly welcome from next-door neighbor Wilson of the clumsy but endearing Tim Taylor from the popular nineties television show Home Improvement? If you remember well (or need some television education), Tim was usually out in his backyard dealing with the latest, usually comical dilemma to befall him and his family, and Wilson would always acknowledge him with this rousing greeting. As their conversation went on, Wilson would quote some little-known philosopher to help solve Tim’s problem and when it was clear Tim wasn’t getting it, Wilson will give him the sound, sage advice that would always work out in the end.
Nowadays, I think we would all love to have a Wilson next door to us so that we could go to him with our problems and, after spouting off some ancient jargon, would remind us of who we were and what advice was best for our situation. In a similar way, Jesus explained the two greatest commandments to a scribe. He told the scribe the two greatest commandments are to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, followed by loving your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31, NKJV).
What does it look like to love our neighbors as ourselves? As we dig more into Scripture, we will see that a neighbor is not just your friendly next-door neighbor but everyone around you.
The Meaning of Loving Your Neighbor As Yourself
"One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, 'Of all the commandments, which is the most important?' 'The most important one,' answered Jesus, 'is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.'” -Mark 12:28-31
Jesus spoke these endearing and profound words during a conversation He had with a scribe who wanted to know the first commandment to follow. Before this conversation, Jesus had already been accosted by some Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees intent on disproving the preaching of Jesus. At this point in the Book of Mark, Jesus had become known around town for not only claiming that He was the Son of God but for miraculously healing people and sharing that He would be resurrected from the dead.
The spiritual leaders didn’t like how Jesus didn’t align with their teachings nor was He willing to submit to their authority, so they tried the tactics of spouting parables or questions meant to make Him second-guess Himself. With the question of the greatest commandment of all, this scribe had already been privy to all the interactions the leaders had with Jesus at that point and believed Jesus answered their questions or parables well (Mk. 12:28). When Jesus replied that it was to love God with everything you had and love your neighbors as you love yourself, the scribe was so pleased by the response that he told Jesus:
"'Well said, teacher,' the man replied. 'You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.' When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.' And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions." -Mark 12:32-34
This revelation would be upsetting to the Pharisees and Sadducees especially because they made their fortune through people giving them their offerings and sacrifices. But what Jesus was sharing here is that our words and actions, whether public or private, to God and to those around us are more precious to God than what we can give in appointed offerings. If we love God with everything and share that love with those around us, it is the greatest offering God could ask for. This truth continues to remain true today. When we place God above all else and share His love with those around us, it pleases Him immensely.
It is also important to remember to love your neighbor as yourself, which means you need to see the love God has for you first; that Jesus died for YOU in order for you to be freed from sin and become the person God intended. For if you don’t realize all the sacrifices God made for you, how can you love others in the same way He has loved you?
Who Qualifies as Your Neighbor?
As anyone probably would be wondering at this point, who is included as my neighbor nowadays? Remember that when Jesus gave this intuitive statement, neighbors were usually considered people in your village or town; people you would usually see on a regular basis. Today, neighbor still carries some of the same sentiment, as we should share the love of Christ with those in our neighborhoods. But with the advantages of technology and travel now, our neighbors are now global and come from different races, cultures, and sometimes religious beliefs. But in Jesus’s eyes, a neighbor is every living, breathing human God created and Jesus died for. They are the people who are closely walking with Christ, as well as those whose hearts God may still tranform.
Even Merriam-Webster Dictionary quotes from the Bible in saying that neighbors are not just those who live locally but “our fellow man.” So, it is safe to say that anyone who has a pulse is your neighbor and needs to be loved as you love yourself. The real question is how do you love your neighbor? Are you supposed to shower them with gifts, as though you were courting them, or flatter them with compliments, or always agree with them to avoid any kind of conflict?
5 Ways You Can Love Your Neighbor
Before we move forward in giving our list of ways, please be mindful that your neighbor is everyone around you, and that God will place you in situations where you will have to love your neighbor as yourself, whether you want to or not. These are sometimes situations where your neighbor might be the most unpleasant person or someone you don’t think you can relate to at all. But God never lets an opportunity to use you as a vessel of His love slip away.
1. Say hello and smile to your neighbor, your co-worker, the mailman, the cashier, anyone.
Something as simple as a smile and a hello can help someone feel he or she matters to someone else. If many are asked, and they are honest, they may say they have never spoken to their next-door neighbors they have lived near for years, or they never have been in a cheerful conversation with their mailman or co-workers. Just taking a moment to get out of your head and problems to say hello and smile to someone else could mean the world to that person who might be in the same dilemma, or worse, as you are. Plus, it also increases your mood as well, as whatever you might have been thinking is now gone, for the moment, from your head.
2. Continue the conversation past hello by asking how they are, sharing common interests, or even asking about prayer requests.
Okay, so the interaction has been initiated with the hello and smile, but you can move past the face-value pleasantries with an actual conversation with your neighbor, co-worker, member of your community. Let’s say, for example, you know your mailman is a huge football fan, and you happen to like the same team. If, one Saturday, your mailman is delivering the mail and you happen to see him, take a moment to go out to your mailbox to collect the mail and mention to him about the game last week. That opens the door for you two to have a conversation, which can continue the next time you see your mailman.
Or, let’s say you always see this one cashier at the grocery store who never seems to smile or just looks like the weight of the world is on her shoulders. Take a moment to get in her check-out lane, say hello and smile, and then ask how her day is going. This could be the opportunity for her to take a moment out of her day to say how her day is going and give you the chance to talk, or even ask to pray for her, as she does her job. You never know until you ask.
3. Offer to help your neighbor, co-worker, community member with chores.
Of course, no one wants to add work to their plate, but it is the idea that sometimes if you aren’t comfortable talking to someone you don’t really know, actions can speak louder than words. Whether it is offering to cut the grass of the little, old lady down the street, taking a neighbor’s garbage down to the street when you take your own, or bringing a meal to a family with a new baby or death in the family, simple acts like this let a person know that you care and are showing them the love that Christ has for them as well.
4. Ask your neighbor over for a meal or to go out to eat somewhere.
Taking a break from the regular routine and interacting with food always helps people to feel more comfortable and talkative. If you are a whiz in the kitchen, invite a neighbor and his/her family over for a tasty meal and use the opportunity to get to know them on a personal level. If cooking isn’t your thing, suggest to your neighbor about going out to a restaurant and allow him or her to pick. Just as at home, a restaurant of a neighbor’s choosing may allow for the conversation to be more fluid and enjoyable. You could then have the opportunity to discuss jobs, families, thoughts on the world, and hopefully belief in God.
5. Invite your neighbor over on holidays or bring treats to them for Christmas.
The holidays can sometimes be the hardest time for some people, especially in light of recent events where people may not get together for safety, so remember your neighbor, co-worker, church member, whoever might be alone during a holiday. Invite your neighbor over for your yearly Fourth of July BBQ, which might give them the opportunity to meet other neighbors, or have them over for dinner with your family on Thanksgiving or Christmas. I’ve gotten in the habit, passed down from my family, of making treats during holidays for our neighbors and have done more of this as a way to check on neighbors during the pandemic. This will allow your neighbor to feel special on that day and erase feelings of sadness or loneliness that the day/the holidays always bring to them.
These opening connections, facilitated hopefully through more conversations, might present the opportunity to share with them about Jesus or to ask if they have anything you can pray for them about.
Love God and Love Others
Jesus told us in Mark 12:31 that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, to extend the love we have for ourselves and for God to all those around us, whether they are our best friends or people nearby we never talk to. The understanding is that our neighbors are not just the friendly Wilsons next door but God’s children all around us, who God has called us to reach out to when maybe others pass them by. Through the suggestions above, you can take a moment out of your day to greet people with a smile, a conversation, even a home-cooked meal to let them know that they are noticed and loved. It also gives us the chance to see and help someone else despite what is going on in our lives, trusting God more to take care of our problems as we minister to someone else.
You may not be a philosophy quoting 'Wilson,' but you can be the caring neighbor who never lets anyone forget that you love God and love others.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Shironosov
Blair Parke is a freelance writer for BibleStudyTools.com and editor for Xulon Press. A graduate of Stetson University with a Bachelor's in Communications, Blair previously worked as a writer/editor for several local magazines in the Central Florida area, including Celebration Independent and Lake Magazine in Leesburg, Florida and currently freelances for the Southwest Orlando Bulletin.
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