Day 24: Loving Your Neighbor as Yourself

Read: Matthew 22:34-40, Leviticus 19:33-34

I had many snow days over the course of my childhood, but one in particular sticks out to me. We had so much snow that my dad wasn’t even able to get to work, so he woke my brothers and I up early and after breakfast he told us to get our snow clothes on and grab shovels. We obeyed and grumbled, but when we walked straight past our driveway and down the street to the house of an elderly widow, our grumbling stopped. We proceeded to clear her driveway and sidewalk of snow. The widow eventually realized what we were doing, and when we were done, she came out to offer us some money, but my dad said, “no thank you, we are not doing this for money, we just wanted to show you God’s love in a practical way”. We said goodbye, and then went down the street to the next widow’s house, and then the next, and so on, saying the same thing each time. Needless to say, when we returned and did our own driveway, there was not a single complaint in our heads. 

When asked which was the greatest commandment, Jesus answered by quoting two passages found in the Old Testament, answering essentially, ‘Love God, Love People’. He says that “All the Law and the Prophets” can be whittled down to those two. But what exactly does it mean to “love your neighbor”? When Jesus compares loving others to the way you love yourself, He’s Talking about actions. What do you do when you are hungry? You eat. What about when you’re cold? You put on a jacket. Similarly, just as someone loves and cares for themselves by doing actions, they should also love and care for others with actions. When Jesus says ‘love God, love others’ He is saying that if you are abiding in the love of God, you will care for what God cares for, and He cares for the outcast, the orphan, the widow, and the poor. When you love God, you will share in His passions.  

In case you’re concerned this idea is unique to Jesus, He is in fact building on God’s revealed Word from the very inception of His people on earth. When Leviticus commands caring for strangers and foreigners, it is saying to care for everyone, specifically the less fortunate. The idea behind the command in Leviticus has the same DNA as Jesus’ ‘Golden Rule’, that we ought to love as we would like to be loved. Just as the Jews wished people had received them when they came out of Egypt into the promised land, so they should receive others with no one else to turn to. It echoes James 1:27, where it talks about pure religion being to care for widows and orphans in their need. We were once orphans and widows, strangers without a home. But now we are adopted and provided for, abiding in the realm of God through Jesus’ grace in our lives. We love our neighbors with the overflow of Christ’s love in us, and that love has no end.

If you care for God, you will care for those around you, especially those who could never repay you—it’s all part of living in the Kingdom of God, Christ’s counter-cultural, redemptive way of life. That snow day in Michigan, my dad taught me a lesson that I have thought about many times since. If you say you love someone, but do nothing to help them in their time of need, you do not truly love them, and often the best way to tell someone of God’s love, is to show it in service.

Ask yourself today, does your definition of loving involve service? How do you love your neighbor? Pray and ask God to open your eyes to see the need around you and pray about practical ways to fill those needs. Then go do it and find yourself caught up in the reality Christ lives in, where the Father’s will is being done, and you are right there in the middle, catching the rays of His glory.

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