The Challenge of Loving My Neighbor
The challenge of loving my neighbor is one of the most universally recognized challenges of the Christian faith. Even people who know nothing about the Bible will resonate with this challenge. To properly understand the challenge, we need to ask three questions: What do we mean when we say "love my neighbor?" Why is it difficult to love my neighbor? And what is the solution to the challenge of loving my neighbor?
What do we mean when we say, "love my neighbor?" First, we mean wanting the best for other people. It is not a matter of emotion or affection, but genuine desire for the best interest of another person. Second, we mean taking an active interest in helping others. Good intentions are insufficient. Loving my neighbor means doing something for his benefit. Third, we mean concern for a circle of people that extends beyond my immediate family. However wide we draw that circle, loving my neighbor means caring for people beyond my personal acquaintance. Finally, loving my neighbor means finding purpose in doing something for someone else. It is moving beyond my own self-interest and investing in the well-being of others.
Why is it difficult to love my neighbor? It is difficult because it is an issue of priority. We have a lot to do with simply running our own lives, paying the bills, taking care of our family. Loving my neighbor takes some extra initiative. The things we do only when we get around to it, we never do. Loving my neighbor requires me to make it a priority.
What is the solution to the challenge of loving my neighbor? Loving God. Jesus tied the two commandments together: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. When you focus on your neighbor, you will fall short. Only as you focus on God, on his love for you, on what he did for you through Jesus Christ, will you be able to sustain the challenge of loving your neighbor.