Loving Your Neighbor Begins at Home
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.Leviticus 19:18
I remember clearly being taught in Sunday School that Jesus said,” the second and greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.”(Mark 12:31) I just wish some one would have showed me how this begins at home with your own family and includes those you encounter on the day to day.
The story of the Good Samaritan was front and center as the prime example. The image and language used was that we look out for those in need, some one that no one else wants to help, or that random stranger down on their luck. In my mind,I was always looking for that one person that really needed my love becauase of their unfortunate circumstances.
Never once, did it occur to me how much patience and humility it would take to put loving your neighbor into practice in daily life with family and friends. Or, how tough it would be when your actual neighbor proves difficult to love.
What Does It Mean to Love Your Neighbor?
Loving your neighbor as yourself is found nine times in the Bible from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The idea is so paramount to God that He makes it a command. Jesus united the command to love your neighbor as yourself with loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
So, if it is that important to God, it should be that important to us. So important that we need to figure out exactly what He means by loving your neighbor whether at home or not.
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.1 John 4:8
Since God is love, it makes sense that we look to His character and example to define true love. God sent true love down in the person of Jesus.
When Jesus was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” He answered with a story of the Good Samaritan. Who did Jesus say was being a good neighbor? The one who had compassion. Compassion moves us to act on behalf of another.
Jesus was compassionate in the way he was motivated to serve, heal, help, and teach those around Him. He did so with a heart full of love that had no selfish motivation.
In Philippians 2:4 it says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” When we love our neighbor as ourselves, we look out for their wellbeing.
Finally, in 1 Corinthians 13, we get a list of what love is that leaves no questions in our mind to how real love should act.
- Love is patient.
- Love is kind.
- Love does not brag.
- Love does not envy.
- Love is not proud.
- Love does not rejoice in evil.
- Love delights in truth.
- Love protects.
- Love trusts.
- Love hopes.
- Love perseveres.
- Love never fails.
Love in Action
All of these statements about love in 1 Corinthians 13 either tell us how love should or shouldn’t behave. So, we are left to believe that if God is love, then we show love by imitating God.
Feelings come and go. Emotions cloud judgement and truth. But, faith says I believe truth and trust in God’s love no matter the circumstances. And, because of this, I can love others with the same love God has give me even if they are hard to love or don’t love me in return.
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus specifically says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27-28)
So, love is acting like Jesus even when we don’t feel like it to those who are easy to love and those who are hard to love. And, some times the people who are hardest to love are those in our home, on our own block, or at our own workplace. How do we start teaching our families that loving your neighbor begins at home?
Passing It On to Our Children
The reason I opened with saying I wish some one would have told me that loving your neighbor begins at home is because I feel like we as Christian parents spend a lot of time telling and teaching our kids how to have compassion on those suffering in the world and praying for those in need.
We also tell our kids “act right” and “be nice” when they are outside the home. But, how much do we enforce God’s second greatest command right inside the home?
Loving Your Neighbor at Home
When some one is having a bad day in our house, do we pray for them? Do we look for ways specifically to do good to them? Or, do we tell them to “straighten up” or “get over it”?
If sibling rivalry is going on, do we punish and move on? Or, do we use it as a teaching opportunity to reinforce what the Bible says about love and how their behavior is contrary to scripture?
If some one in our home is struggling, maybe with school work, or learning a new skill (i.e. tying their shoes), do we look for ways to ease their burdens as a family?
I realize that we as parents find it fairly easy to have compassion on our younger children and look our for their well-being but, do we find it as easy with a difficult teenager or a spouse who is being contrary? Is our love still patient, kind, not proud, and full of hope?
If we believe that love never fails, then let’s show our children how to put it in action. It starts with us and our attitudes and then moves to us using love to correct their choices.
Put “Loving our neighbor” into Action
The following is a list of practical ideas to help us to begin building a atmosphere of love that sees family members as our neighbors who need the same love, compassion, and care as those outside the home.
- Pray for those who are being difficult before confronting them. God just might change our hearts or theirs first.
- Teach our children that God is love and we are to be imitators of Jesus. (Memorize 1 John 4:8.)
- Correct using 1 Corinthians 13. For example, that was unkind, the Bible says that “Love is Kind.”
- Challenge the family each day:
- to think of one way to put some one else in the family before themselves.
- to find a way to serve another sibling expecting nothing in return.
- Put compassion in action. When some one is sick, hurting, sad, etc, go the extra mile to serve and care for them.
- Create a culture of forgiveness.
- Encourage your children to ask God for forgiveness when they mess up.
- Encourage them to seek and give forgiveness to one another.
- Have a conversation about how we love and care for ourselves.
- Ask: How can we care for others in those ways?
- Share: What does it look like putting aside our own rights, plans, or desires to put some else first?
I get it, we let our guard down at home. However, the way that we treat one another inside our home is naturally going to translate to how we treat others outside the home. When our children come from a place where true love is in action, they are going to overflow that love to the world around them.
Outside the Home
Not everyone is easy to love.
I don’t want to go into too much detail but when we lived in seminary housing, there was an older couple who were not believers but there by a special permission who lived below us. They took upon themselves to bang a broom on the ceiling or knock on my door when they felt my children were too loud during the day.
They stayed up all night and slept during the day. My husband once had to go down stairs because my four year old heard them screaming at each other in the middle of the night.
This was a difficult and stressful time for us since I was dealing with postpartum depression and we were preparing to move to Canada.
One of the things that we decide early on was that even though our children were young, we were going to pray for this couple together as a family. Also, we were not going to speak poorly of them or encourage our children to shy away from them.
Once we got their mail and my three year old knocked on their door to give it to them. He told them “have a good day and we are praying for you.”
It’s not easy to love those who are unkind or hurtful to your family. I believe we are no more living like Jesus than when we love in difficult situations. Remember that he “demonstrated His love for us by dying for us while we were yet sinners.” (Romans 5:8)
Sometimes others just need that reminder that God loves them in order to love others. And, we must keep being reminded of God’s love to properly love on other’s ourselves.
Scriptures to Encourage Us in Love
- “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. ” Romans 12:9-10
- “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
- “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3
- “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18
- “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
- “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8
- “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13
Please help us to obey your command to love our neighbors as ourselves. Show us how loving your neighbor begins at home with loving our spouse and children with you forgiving, kind, and selfless love. Encourage us with your word and the truth of it as we strive to be sure that we are loving others like you would love them. Convict us of patterns that are selfish, unkind, prideful, or hurtful. Make our family a testament to your love to those around us. Amen.