This was first written for the Oakland Independent June 21, 2017.
When writing an article for local paper, one of my goals is to help Christians understand how we should interact with our local community.
The second great commandment, "love your neighbor as yourself", helps us understand what our attitude should be regarding those in the community. If we can love our neighbors as ourselves we will end up being a blessing to all of those around us, and in the process make our community a better place to live.
Here are some biblical suggestions about how to live out the second great commandment:
First, be a hospitable neighbor. In 1 Timothy 3, we see that one of the characteristics of the Christian leader is hospitality. This should not just be true of leaders, but we should all aspire to be hospitable. A hospitable person is someone who is welcoming and generous to your neighbors. In practice this might mean having a neighbor over for a cookout, letting them borrow your mower when theirs breaks, or bringing them a meal when someone in their household is sick. On a more basic level it might mean just saying hi when you see them going out in the morning. Jesus was a hospitable person who cared enough about the people around him to notice them and help them when he could.
A second way that we can love our neighbors is by living a righteous life around them. In our business dealings we should be known to be fair and honest. We should not gossip, lie about, or speak harmfully about anyone else in the community. We should be careful about what commitments we make and then be careful about keeping the commitments we do make. A righteous person becomes a safe person who can be trusted, and who is seen as an asset to the community.
Finally, the Bible tells us in many places that we are to look after those who cannot help themselves, such as widows, orphans, and foreigners. Often people who are needy are nearly invisible in our society, such as an older shut-in or single mom struggling to provide for her children. To help these people we have to ask God to open our eyes to needs that we would otherwise not see, and then give us the courage to overcome the social barriers and go to them and offer help, because many times they will not have the courage to ask for our help.
Learning to love our neighbors well is one of the ways we learn to be more like Jesus. In this way, we will be a blessing to those close to us and Christians, but is exactly what we should do as we follow Jesus.