Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

How to Love Your Neighbor the Right Way

How to Love Your Neighbor the Right Way

“Love your neighbor.” (Matthew 22:39) Where does the Golden Rule originate? Even nonbelievers will answer with the Bible. But if there’s a verse that gets misappropriated and used unjustly by people, this is the one. Some Christians fail to understand what this verse really means. Other nonbelievers use the passage either mistakenly or intentionally in a way that leaves out the other half. Here’s the full verse: “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39)

We don’t simply love our neighbors. We love them as ourselves. These words come from the Book of Matthew, courtesy of Jesus Himself. He helps us understand the significance of this act by identifying it as the second greatest commandment. And Jesus illustrates how we can live out the commandment through one of His most famous parables - The Good Samaritan.

This parable teaches that no matter how culture tells you to act towards other people, based on their ethnicity (nationality), sex, or culture, when we act, we act in Christ. Therefore, we are to act lovingly towards all. That’s the calling!

Loving others does not mean we tolerate and encourage all forms of behavior. In fact, loving means just the opposite. Jesus lovingly admonished the adulteress (John 8:11). He also fashioned a whip and overturned tables in the “den of thieves” (John 2:15). We witness in our own lives, a loving parent doesn’t just encourage. They also discipline their child. A parent who decides never to discipline isn’t loving by Christian standards.

Look at God’s relationship with us. We too receive discipline and correction because He loves, not because He doesn’t.

So, some nonbelievers, and some Christians, are incorrect in how they misuse the verse. Nonetheless, with some added clarity, you will discover 5 ways to love your neighbor as yourself. The right way! But first, who is your neighbor?

Who Is Your Neighbor?

An expert in the law asked Jesus this very question (Luke 10:29). What we discover through the Good Samaritan parable is that all people are our neighbors, not just the ones living next to us, not just our relatives, or friends. Everyone.

At times we are tempted to make excuses about who we love, resolving to care just for those closest to us and those who also reciprocate that care. In the parable, the two characters who interacted the most, society expected to hate one another. Jews and Samaritans did not get along. Today, Republicans are against Democrats, conservatives against liberals. But in reality, we are all neighbors.

Thus, if this is true, we should strive to love everyone when and where that is possible. Again, this does not mean avoiding conflict or admonishing. Loving other people means to will their good, especially above ourselves. With that in mind, let’s discuss 5 ways we can love our neighbors today.

1. Make a Visit

All relationships are built through good old-fashioned quality time. Who in your life can you plan on visiting today or during the weekend? Some people prefer a call in advance, but other people will be overjoyed by a surprise visit, especially if you haven’t seen them in a while.

After finishing a tutoring gig, I would visit my family because they lived nearby. The visit was unscheduled but very much appreciated. If you try this, you may even find yourself having an unplanned, but very appreciated dinner!

2. Give Gifts

Contrary to what you may think, gifts don’t have to be extravagant. Gifts don’t even have to be what immediately comes to mind: clothing, jewelry, or something bought. Gifts can be made, inexpensive, and could even come in the form of food. While there’s truth to “It’s the thought counts,” there’s also truth in realizing people appreciate gifts that reflect them.

For example, don’t give a card to someone who hates cards and say, “Well, it’s the thought that counts.” Think about what they like and get them that instead.

My dance students are young, vibrant, and enjoy eating sweets. There was no surprise when I brought them candy to celebrate Halloween.

3. Offer a Listening Ear

Something that’s lacking in today’s America is people who listen. Turn on any political debate and you will hear two people yelling over each other and hurling insults. Watch any average two people hanging out and you will find them silent and on their phones, or taking turns talking about themselves.

The first person says they went to the store to get groceries. Instead of asking what she got, the woman listening starts talking about going to the store herself. They go back and forth, and the subject of their words is I. You get the idea.

I don’t know how to solve this issue, but one way I try to serve people is by listening. I listen without talking about myself unless trying to show them I understand. This act makes people feel seen, appreciated, and helps them process life’s problems: work changes, family drama, etc.

4. Pray for Thy Neighbor

We’re all in need in some way, and if not right now, at some point we will be. Life involves suffering, but there is joy to find. One way we overcome our circumstances is through prayer, but sometimes we forget. If you know someone in need, offer to pray with them. Not prayer later, but with them. Right then and there. Praying later in private is fine, but praying with someone creates a memorable experience for both parties.

While helping out an old guy at the library, he started talking to me about undergoing cancer treatments. That was a very personal subject to drop on a stranger just helping out with some tech stuff. Nonetheless, I offered to pray with him, in that moment, in front of everyone.

He thanked me and we went our separate ways.

5. Find Ways to Serve

One habit I used to have was asking people for ways to serve them. If someone asked you right now, “How can I serve you,” what would you say? The answer I often heard was “I don’t know.” Can’t blame them. Coming up with an answer on the spot is tough.

However, one possible solution is following up later after they’ve had time to think. Another solution is initiating ways to serve others without asking, but also without crossing boundaries. Don’t start washing someone’s car without permission, but sending them an encouraging letter is likely to be received well.

Think on it, pray on it, and most of all, whatever you do, do it in love.

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/shironosov 

headshot of author Aaron BrownAaron D'Anthony Brown is a freelance writer, hip-hop dance teacher, and visual artist, living in Virginia. He currently contributes work to iBelieve, Crosswalk, and supports various clients through the platform Upwork. He's an outside-the-box thinker with a penchant for challenging the status quo. Check out his short story “Serenity.”