Did you know God is more concerned about whether or not you love your neighbor than that you get straight A’s in your math class?
Paul said in his letter to the Romans to…
“Owe no one anything, except to love each other… Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:8-10).
Anything we do without love is totally worthless.
Love is pretty important. But that leaves us with a nagging question: How do we love our neighbors?
Here’s a few of my thoughts, but I’d love to hear your thoughts as well. Let me know in the comments below what you think it means to “love thy neighbor.”
1. Love your neighbor unconditionally.
I’m gonna cut straight to the chase: if love isn’t unconditional, it’s not love. Love is defined by those moments when your neighbor deserves it the least.
Love is manifest in those moments when your little brother is irritating you for the millionth time with his silly questions or lame jokes–and yet you listen to him one more time.
Or when your best friend decides she doesn’t want to sit with you at lunch any more but you keep a spot open at your table, just in case she changes her mind.
Love is not simply “doing no wrong to your neighbor” (Romans 13:10) but it goes farther and actually builds them up (1 Corinthians 8:1).
Unconditionally loving your neighbor is simply the daily act of showing those around you that you’re committed to your success.
It’s the kind of love Jesus demonstrated for us.
There was no reason under heaven–no condition–that the Creator of the world should have died to save us, yet he did. Why? Because his love is unconditional.
There’s absolutely nothing we can do to make God stop loving us.
As Paul said, “…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
God’s love simply exists. It’s there reaching out for us, even if we’re actively rejecting it.
If the Trinity were a set of magnets, love would be the everlasting, unbreakable magnetic force holding them together.
And it’s into this magnetic love that he calls us–his children. This “Kingdom of Light” which we were saved into is ruled by this law of unconditional love (Colossians 1:13). If this everlasting, unbreakable love is not present, neither is the Kingdom of Light (1 John 4:7-9).
2. Serve your neighbor so they succeed.
So, love should happen whether or not the other person deserves it. But how do I actually love my neighbor?
Love is not love if it stays in the heart. Love must be done.
If you’re struggling to know how you can love somebody, just ask yourself “How can I serve this person?” One small act is all you need to get started.
Don’t make a big deal of it. Just do it quietly without any sort of expectation to be noticed.
The Apostle John put it well:
“By this we know love”–He’s about to define the love we should have for our brothers–“that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18).
3. Remember love must be received.
There’s one “drawback” to the nature of love which can sometimes be frustrating:
Love can’t be force-fed. It must received.
However, whether or not I accept your unconditional love does not make your love any less valuable or real. Yet, in order for us to have a true relationship, I have to let myself be loved by you and vice versa.
Here’s the catch, though, which makes it tough for the receiver: As real as it may be, unconditional love isn’t always felt. Sometimes, people are blinded to the love they’re receiving.
Usually, this is a result of Satan’s one and only weapon: lies–but that’s another topic for another article.
Suffice it to say all you need to worry about is that you are doing what’s right by committing yourself to your neighbor’s success. Whether or not they receive it is between them and God.
But, if you’re like me, you probably still have one last nagging question about how to love your neighbor: Who is my neighbor?
The One Who Showed Mercy
Jesus was actually asked this exact question in Luke 10. He answered by telling the famous story of “The Good Samaritan” which he concluded by revealing the neighbor was the man who showed mercy to his downtrodden enemy (Luke 10:25-37).
Simply put, Jesus defined “our neighbor” as anyone we meet throughout life who needs mercy–even if they’re our most despised enemy.
Who is that in your life? (Let me know in the comments below!)
This post is part of a series of articles talking about what it means to “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself.” You can read the first article here.