“The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
– Mark 12:31
Earlier this summer, my family took a weekend trip for a little rest and relaxation. This rest and relaxation led to one of the worst sunburns I have ever experienced, but that’s another story for another time. Throughout the trip, I shared a bed with my 4-year-old son, and I wasn’t looking forward to spending my evening protecting my extra crispy skin from a restless, lanky child. As he crawls into bed next to me, I sense his face very close to my head. I turn to look at his grinning face just as he loudly exclaims “Hello Neighbor!”
As I listened to his uncontrollable giggling, my worries over self-protection were gone. I thought about reminding him that I was his dad and not his neighbor, but my mind went back to some research I had done last year on the word neighbor. This word simply means “near, close by, the person next to me, fellow-man.” Each of those words is encompassed within a single word, neighbor.
Here’s where things get really interesting to me. The Greek word used for “neighbor” was found 225 times in the Septuagint, the Greek old testament. This same word is only found 16 times in the New Testament. Of those 16 times, 9 are in the Gospels, and 8 of those 9 are spoken by Jesus. Think about that! Mark 12:31 is only one of 16 uses of the word neighbor in the New Testament. It is only one of 8 recorded instances of Jesus discussing the concept of neighbor. If Jesus only talked about it 8 times, is the word neighbor really that important?
To answer that question, we have to really think about what Jesus is saying here. He begins this passage by saying the greatest commandment is to love God with everything that you are: all your heart, soul, and mind. Then, the next greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus then reminds His listeners of what He is saying. “There is no other commandment greater than these.”
So who is my neighbor? To answer that question, we have to admit it’s the wrong question! We should be asking “Who am I near?” The guy that cuts me off in traffic? Jesus says I am to love him in the same way I love myself. The family in front of me at Wal-Mart attempting to break the record for the world’s slowest cart unloading? Jesus says I am to love them in the same way I love myself. And yes, Jesus says to my son that Drew needs to love me in the same way that he loves himself.
Fred Rogers was asking the wrong question. We shouldn’t ask “Won’t you be my neighbor?” but we should instead ask “What can I do to help you feel love because you are my neighbor,”.
Pray: God, thank you for loving me and providing me guidance. Help me to see everyone around me as my neighbor, and to find ways to show them to You through love.
First Baptist Broken Arrow