Love Your Neighbor
Today I want to help us think about the question “What does it mean to love my neighbor?” And, I want to think about it specifically, but not exclusively, in light of the ongoing pandemic. My hope is that we can take the principals we learn from this study and apply them to our lives today, but also to the way we live our lives once we get back to “normal”.
Most of us are familiar with the exchange in Matthew 22:
 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.  “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.
Even those with a limited church background can pull from this passage the implication that Christians are commanded to love their neighbor. But, I had a revelation recently – and I suspect I’m not alone in my thinking – I usually equate the command to love my neighbor with simply doing good things for my neighbor. In my thinking, love simply equals action and action equals love.
Cultivating Love in the Heart
If we use the example of loving God, however, we see that love is first the disposition towards someone from which the actions flow. Loving your neighbor then, first means developing a new disposition towards them; an affection and desire for their good. From this new desire good works towards them will follow, but we should not forsake the cultivation of a loving disposition and replace it with simple acts of kindness.
With that in mind let me suggest a few ways to begin cultivating a love for your neighbor.
1. Prayer – First, pray. Pray for your own heart to be changed into conformity to Christ’s. But also pray for the needs of your neighbor. I’ve found that nothing helps me love others more than sharing in their grief and praying for their needs.
2. Perception – Second, even for the most difficult of people in your life, fight to believe the truth that they are made in the image of God and deserving of dignity, value, and love. This is even true for those who are not a part of the church which is why God bestows his common grace upon all mankind.
3. Plan – Begin to think about ways that you can put this new affection into action. If the Lord grants for you to grow in your love for your neighbor, it still does them no good if you just sit at home with a warm fuzzy feeling about them. Plan for ways to show them love in the name of Christ and actually do it. Don’t let anything keep you from starting to grow in your love for your neighbor today.
Ryan Potter is Assistant Pastor at Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Kalamazoo, MI. Ryan is an alumnus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he received his M. Div. and is currently serving in the campus ministry for Good Shepherd at Western Michigan University.