Read Leviticus 19:11-18
The word ‘neighbor’ took on a whole new meaning when I started college my freshmen year at The University of Tampa. Growing up in Wooster, OH, “neighbor” to me meant the families that lived on the other side of our fence who by all societal accounts looked, acted, and believed a lot of the same things I did. I realized quickly the same would not be the case at college, especially at a school that was made up of students primarily from out of state. In fact, my roommate was from Venezuela! Talk about a completely different perspective and outlook on life. Maybe you have the same outlook on “neighbor” as I did? If so, you aren’t alone.
All too often we can get caught up in believing that our neighbors are only the people we want to classify by that name. Much like how we afford someone the title of friend, culture has made it acceptable for us to make the same pronouncement on those we ‘see’ as neighbors. For instance, we might be inclined to say, “Oh yeah, that’s my neighbor” when talking about someone we like versus “oh yeah…that crazy family who lives up the street” when describing to the contrary. It has become all too easy for us to only heed the words of Scripture to treat your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31) when ‘neighbor’ applies to people that might look, act, and believe like we do or, at the very least, folks we feel comfortable around.
While we may have a subjective view of what the word “neighbor” means, the Lord provides us with a much more objective definition in our passage today. He calls us to think differently and live differently. Our challenge isn’t to make our neighbors more like us; rather, He challenges us to treat our neighbors differently. In a world that pulls us apart and with an enemy that only seeks to divide- we are to be fair and treat all people equally (v. 15). We are to be champions of justice, standing up for those who are persecuted, and not exclusively those who share our same ideology or beliefs (v. 15). We are to be truth-tellers, positive speakers, and honest with our finances (v. 11, 16, 13). We are to be slow to anger and quick to show grace (v. 18). Frankly, this verse gives us a picture of how to be love in a broken world and how we are to treat fellow broken people.
Our world is broken. Our world is hurting. People are longing for justice, security, and, above all, love. Instead of contributing to the pain, the division, and the disunity, let us today choose to follow in the footsteps of the greatest unifier of all time, Jesus Christ, and point our neighbors to love. Love is the heartbeat of the gospel. Is your heart beating for love?
How might Jesus be tugging on your heartstrings today to be a better, more loving neighbor?