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How To Grow in Love for Your Neighbor

Brooke Wilson

Think about the closest relationships in your life. Are they with your family, your friends, a mentor?

When you think of those relationships, you may notice there has been growth in them over time. You were not always quick to confide in them. You were not always the first person they called in trouble. But your relationship has matured as you’ve been there for one another.

God intended the Christian life to be one of growth. In 1 Thessalonians 3:12 (English Standard Version), Paul writes, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you.”

Whether exciting or exhausting, your relationship with your neighbor may not fall into the “deep” category of relationships yet, but you can get there, one step at a time.

You are on a journey of increasing, developing and maturing in your love for Him and others. We all have deep friendships that we treasure, but Jesus invites us to love our neighbors as we would ourselves, just like we love our close friends. When Jesus says “neighbor,” He means everyone in our circles — our geographical neighbors, coworkers and classmates. Not all of these relationships are easy ones, but they can still grow in depth and love.

Whether exciting or exhausting, your relationship with your neighbor may not fall into the “deep” category of relationships yet, but you can get there, one step at a time.

So, how can you grow in your relationship with your neighbor?

5 Ways You Can Grow in Your Relationship With Your Neighbor

1. Understand Growth Takes Time

(Setting a deadline may lead to disappointment.)

For three years, Jesus’ followers grew to understand themselves more and learn who Jesus was. Jesus showed patience as His followers disobeyed at times and weren’t always the greatest of friends to Him or one another. So as your relationship with your neighbor begins to grow, be patient with God, be patient with them, and be patient with yourself.

2. Commit to Intentionality

(Water often — you’ll be glad you did.)

Have you ever forgotten to water a plant? What was the result? Unless it was a cactus, it probably wasn’t good.

Jesus was consistently intentional — everything He did was with a purpose in mind. You may see this when you read of Jesus interacting with His followers. John 13:1-17 describes how Jesus washed the feet of His followers because His purpose was to love and serve them. Your relationship with your neighbor can reach great depths as you commit to intentionally knowing and investing in them.

3. Listen and Learn

(How do I love my neighbor like Jesus does?)

Just like a plant that you grow from a seed, as your relationship with your neighbor grows, you need to grow in your knowledge of how to care for them well. Learning what they’re passionate about or listening to their struggles can go a long way. For some creative ways to cultivate your relationship with your neighbor, read “9 Ways to Be a Good Neighbor.”

4. Tend to the Soil of Your Heart First

(Biases can lead to judgment.)

Before you plant a seed, you remove rocks and old roots that may hinder the growth of your plant. As a Christian, you know there will always be sins or “rocks” that need to be removed, so it’s important to dig beneath the surface in your own heart. This may include entering into uncomfortable conversations with close friends or reflecting on ideas relating to culture, gender, race, and lifestyles that could affect a new friendship. Learn how to enter into these conversations by reading “Are All Your Friends Just Like You?”

5. Stay Rooted in God’s Word and He Will Grow Your Relationships

(Your neighbor is also made in the image of God.)

To love your neighbor is to remind yourself that God is your first love and that God loved them first. In Mark 12:30-31, God instructs us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. The best way to know God is through His Word in Scripture. Secondly, God says to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. But He has to come first.

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