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How to Love the Neighbor You've Never Met

John Dorsey

I threw my body onto the floor, desperately flattening myself against the rough carpet. I listened intently but only heard my own pounding heartbeat. After a moment of quiet, I cautiously peered out the window, peeking one eye over the ledge just enough to see the street below. Instantly, I recoiled to my hiding spot. She was still there!

No, I wasn’t a soldier in wartime hiding from a dangerous enemy, nor was my house being robbed. The figure on the front porch was merely a kind neighbor who brought over a bread basket for my mom.

Years after this childhood experience, I often still find myself avoiding interaction with my neighbors. You probably haven’t hidden dramatically in a moment of unnecessary panic. But chances are you also struggle to initiate and maintain relationships with your neighbors. 

You’re not alone. Engaging in relationships with neighbors can be challenging.

Commanded to Love

When Jesus was asked to name the most important commandment, He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31, English Standard Version).

While Jesus taught that the concept of “neighbor” includes more than those living geographically near you, the person you share a fence with still falls into this category!

Jesus commanded you to love your neighbors. But who is your neighbor? In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus answered this question with a story, demonstrating that anyone can be your neighbor, and He especially taught His listeners to show mercy to the marginalized and hopeless. 

While Jesus taught that the concept of “neighbor” includes more than those living geographically near you, the person you share a fence with still falls into this category! 

In an effort to think broadly about reaching your “neighbors” at work or in your classes, how often do you ignore the neighbor living next door?

These geographical neighbors can seem the hardest to reach out to. You did not choose them, and you may not share a job or hobby that would provide a natural connection to them. Jesus commanded you to love them, but how can you love those around you when you don’t even know their names?

Where Do I Go From Here?

Here are three ways to start.

  1. Pray. Ask God to give you the courage to introduce yourself to your neighbors. Pray for ears to listen and a heart to understand as you get to know them.
  2. Start small. You don’t need to start a neighborhood book club with 20 people in it. Choose one neighbor next door or across the street to meet. Come prepared with a few good questions in mind to ask them. Even natural interactions, like dog-walking or checking the mailbox, are a great way to engage with those around you.
  3. Invite. Ask your neighbor to come over for a socially-distanced, outdoor dinner one night next week or to watch a game together on TV. These small interactions are how meaningful relationships are built.

For more ideas on how to foster relationships with your neighbors, explore “How to Grow in Love for Your Neighbor” and “9 Ways to Be a Good Neighbor.”

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