“Love the Lord your God” is the greatest commandment (Deuteronomy 6:5), and Jesus tells the Pharisees the second greatest commandment is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37–39).
In this season, with stay-at-home orders and with summer upon us, I see my neighbors more often than I have in the past. We wave hello while doing yard work or stand six feet apart while chatting over the fence. I believe we have the opportunity now more than ever to love our neighbors well, but I’d like to propose an even closer-to-home look at this call to love our neighbors.
1 Corinthians 13:4–5 beautifully spells out the benchmarks of a life lived out of love. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”
First, consider who are your closest neighbors. For me, my closest neighbors are my husband and my children. Sometimes I find it easier to show patience and kindness to my neighbor over the fence, the barista who gave me my much-needed coffee, or the cashier at my local grocery store than to my own family. I know I have fallen short of these benchmarks of love with my closest neighbors, and I have learned something about God’s love and forgiveness that I want to live out in our home. I want to be the first to admit and apologize when I miss the mark.
When we confess our shortcomings and are quick to apologize for not being patient or kind, we reinforce the environment of Love & Respect within our homes.
As a family, how are you living out this call to love your closest neighbors?
- Create an environment for your family to pause. For us this looks like a comfortable setting where bellies are full, kids are in pj’s, maybe I’m baking cookies, and worship music is on in the background. Take a moment to read 1 Corinthians 13 together and pray. Ask the Lord to show you how you can love each other better. If you have noticed someone in the family showing these benchmarks of love, encourage that person and praise her for her efforts—e.g., “I noticed your patience with your brother today.” Remember to keep it short and sweet. Baking cookies can be the perfect amount of time for our family; when the timer goes off, we can enjoy warm cookies to close our time together.
- Select a few families in your neighborhood to whom you can show the love of Christ. Some fun practical ideas may be chalking encouraging words or Scriptures on driveways or on prayer rocks. You could put together summer gift baskets with Frisbees, water balloons, bubbles, balls, recipes, and Scripture cards. Or perhaps you’ve been baking and can share some tasty treats with them. Ask your kids for ideas—they may surprise you with their thoughtfulness and creativity!