By Cameron Warren —
I was hanging out on a walk with one of my friends the other month on a cloudy day. The air was cool. The sun was hidden. The smell of the earth was ubiquitous. At one point he told me he wakes up every morning and he asks himself one question: “How can I love my neighbor today?”
My brother recently told me that before he used to go on any date, he would think of 26 conversation starters—one for each letter of the alphabet (he found out quickly none of his dates owned xylophones). This sort of behavior, though comedically excessive in this instance, seems totally mainstream.
So, how come avoiding awkwardness is a common premeditated effort while loving thy neighbor isn’t?—at least in my life. Until last month, I always felt like a good works jellyfish, drifting around dormant until some needy person needed something from me. And even at that point, for me to put forth the effort to help, it would need to be convenient.
Loving thy neighbor had become to me just a simple task, among zillions of other daily tasks I had to get done. And often, I would put it on the back burner.
I told my friend how much I admired his diligent, proactive way of showing love to those around him. It reminded me of a puritan prayer in The Valley of Vision which says, “While Jesus is representing me in Heaven, may I reflect him on earth.” Be as a spiritual mirror!
During my conversation with this friend, we discussed his motivation for such a proactive effort. Soon we were talking about how great our God is and that reflecting His goodness to us is a natural response to all that He has done for us.
There are far too many verses to mention that tell of God’s goodness to his people: Ephesians 3:20, Psalm 23:6, Matthew 7:11, Psalm 34:8.
Or one of my absolute favorites, Psalm 103: 3-8 (talking about God):
...who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
Putting in my mind practical ways I can love my neighbor isn’t always easy. But as I did it more often, the Lord opened up doors.
Loving thy neighbor can be as easy as switching shifts with your co-worker, buying cookies to share (McDonald’s makes legendary cookies. They sell 13 cookies for $4), or you could invite your literal neighbors over for a bonfire, start up a Bible study, send someone a text and ask them how they are doing. Otherwise, call someone you haven’t talked to in a minute. (Minute: young person slang for a period of time far longer than a literal minute.)
For all the upperclassmen in highschool—be nice to the underclassmen. Include them in things, talk to them, challenge them to a game of ping pong, don’t feel the need to be “too cool for school.” Those are easy ways to love thy neighbor.
In the end, there are so many ways we can reflect God’s character when we see His love for us. Sometimes it’s just a matter of conquering laziness.