Just who is my neighbor? You may think you know, but read on, I think you'll be surprised by the answer.
I know the Bible tells me that I should love my neighbor as myself, Jesus gave that directive as second only to loving God with all your heart.
I’ve heard a lot of teachings throughout the years that taught; “in order to love others we need to first love ourselves.” Funny that Jesus forgot to mention that. Could it be because He knew that we do love ourselves already, maybe more than we should sometimes.
Who, when driving a car doesn’t do everything possible to avoid oncoming disaster, or when pounding a nail doesn’t concentrate, being sure not to smash their fingers. And who when confronted with unexplainable symptoms doesn’t feel relieved when the Dr. declares it to be something simple and hands you a prescription for antibiotics. We love ourselves. We wish ourselves well and always hope for the best for ourselves. That’s the way we are, Jesus knew this and said that we should love our neighbor as ourself. We should always wish the best for them, we should pray for their well being, and we should be happy when good things happen for them.
But, getting back to my original question, just who is my neighbor? I know who lives next door to me, and across the street. My neighbor on one side has a different faith than me, on the other side; that neighbor has no faith. Then there’s the neighbor across the street that seems to be a recluse that I never see, on one side of that neighbor is a couple that seem very self-sufficient and don’t like my dog, and then there’s my new neighbor on the other side. Wow! When I write it out like that it would appear that I have a ministry field surrounding me everywhere I look. And then it hit me…. anyone I can see at any given moment is my neighbor.
I happen to be married to a man that gets that. When we were on our first date, on one of her many trips to our table he asked our waitress; “Do you know the Lord Jesus as your Savior?” She looked at him in shock, a look I would get used to seeing being married to him, and responded with; “Yes I do… but I haven’t been to church in a long time, I usually work on Sundays.” On subsequent visits to our table he told her of churches in our area that meet at varied times, making it easier to accommodate life’s schedules. Then on one of her last trips to serve us (hey, it was our first date, we were there for a long time, actually the whole evening) he asked if he could pray for her, and he prayed that God would help her find the perfect place to fellowship and grow in Him. OK, that was it, I was in love.
But this wasn’t done to impress me, it wasn’t an isolated incident. My husband sees a mom with a child in a supermarket and he asks her; “are you raising up your child to love Jesus?” You know what everyone, and I mean everyone without exception says? “Yes, I am.” Now my synical little self looks at the expression on their face when he asks the question, at the way they are dressed; the tattoos, the face piercing(s), and I think; “No way!” But my wonderful husband doesn’t see that, he just responds with; “Good, I’m so glad to hear that because it’s so important.” Now what do you suppose the Holy Spirit does with that interaction?
I remember one time in particular when we were late for something, and on top of everything else that seemed to go wrong we had to stop for gas. As the attendant was pumping the gas my wonderful husband asked him; “Let me ask you a question, do you have the Lord Jesus living in your heart?” And of course this happened to be the time that he asked it of someone that “had questions.”
Everything in me screamed; “NOT NOW, WE’RE LATE!”
And then I heard myself. What? “Are you crazy?” I asked myself, these two are talking about the most important question in all of existence and you're thinking… not now we’re late?
That was the day that I realized that God had blessed me with a man that knows who is his neighbor. It’s anyone you can see at the moment. The person behind you in line, the checker at the market, the person who pumps your gas, someone you pass by in the street. Whoever you can see at the moment. That is your neighbor. And Jesus has one question for you… are you loving them?