I learned these verses many, many years before I accepted Christ and actually began reading the Bible. In fact, I’ll dare say some people aren’t even sure if the “Golden Rule” is from the Bible or just an old saying. But Jesus says this simple statement is the second greatest commandment! (Matthew 22:39). The lawyer asked Jesus in Luke 10, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied with the story of the good Samaritan. What we can glean from that story is that basically, anyone in your circle of influence who needs help is your neighbor. Paul tells us in Galatians 6:10 “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” That tells me that I should look first to my brothers and sisters in Christ, and then outward.
Here are some practical ways to “love our neighbor” that I have witnessed or been the recipient of:
1) Bring a meal! Oh, how much this means! I was on bed rest AFTER having two of my babies, and my husband’s coworkers brought meals every other night for two weeks both times. Not only did I appreciate the meals, I loved chatting with the people who brought them after laying in bed all day! If you can use disposable dishes/pans (stock up when they go on sale), all the better. Partnering with another friend also helps simplify the task. Involving your children in the preparation and delivery of the meal takes a little of the load off and helps teach them to love their neighbors, too.
You can also bring part of a meal. Once I was really busy, at the end of our budget, and frustrated with not being able to get a meal together for my friend who had recently given birth. Everyone else in my homeschool group, it seemed, had been over to visit with her except me. Finally, it dawned on me that anything I could bring would help her, so I mixed up a batch of homemade cornbread, wrapped it in foil and brought it over. My friend was delighted, and I realized things don’t always have to be perfect.
2) Listen… sometimes people don’t want a solution to their problem, just a listening ear. Even if you feel they are not handling the situation correctly, sometimes just listening, nodding, and understanding how they feel is what is needed.
3) Clean… I have been both the recipient and the cleaner. It is so nice to have someone come and take care of things when the lady of the house cannot. This appplies to laundry, too.
4) Do little things… mow the lawn of a church member whose military husband is deployed. (I guess this one is for the men!) Send cards, letters, and e-mails to encourage someone. Offer to watch children or drive them to their scheduled lessons. My neighbor doesn’t have time to bake, so I often cut a few brownies out of my families’ pan and take them next door for her family. Good brownies make good neighbors!
One of our Sunday school (small group)’s favorite memories is the day our church had a work day for our leader, whose infant son was in ICU. Men from our church came over to weed, trim, and do household maintenance for this man and his wife. My husband and his friend were assigned the task of putting up a screen door which had a glass window that could be cranked open. After completing the task, my husband (a graphic designer) and his friend a (a P.E. teacher) realized that they had incorrectly installed the door. The window could only be opened from the outside. There was no time to remove and reinstall the door, and to this day, they are playfully mocked whenever our group gets together. But the love that was shown by those two men to their friends far outweighed the botched home improvement job.
5) Just ask … My daughter was 10 days old, and I was put on a week’s bedrest. It was Wednesday evening, and my husband needed to go to church because his singing group would be rehearsing. My good friend came over, sent my hubby and the two older girls off to church, and asked me what I would rather have her do…clean something or sit and chat. Talk about showing love! I asked her if she would just clean our bathroom and THEN sit and chat. Oh, and knowing my love for chocolate, she also brought a brownie mix and decided to bake it for us at my house so I could smell it in the oven. Believe me, the love was felt! To this day, we are close because of the love shown each other in times of need.
So the next time God puts a need in front of you, respond! It doesn’t have to be perfect, big, or take a long time. Sometimes just the simplest things are “loving our neighbor.”
Wife and homeschooling mother of three, Kim enjoys reading, writing, and watching old movies. A self-proclaimed chocoholic, she also loves to cook and bake. You can find more of her musings (and recipes) at thedaisymuse.com.