Sometimes, it can be so hard to connect with our neighbors… despite our efforts and desires. Your friendly wave gets ignored. Your invitation to spend time together gets constantly rejected. Or you feel that they’re always in your business and trying to gossip instead of wanting to be your friend. However, the mission that God has called us to, to love our neighbors, hasn’t changed.
Knowing this can help you to put yourself out there to be a vessel for God. Learning these 10 ways to love your neighbor can help you do this and make such a difference for the kingdom.
Who Is Your Neighbor?
Knowing the meaning of the word “neighbor” helps us to understand the scope of God’s command. Neighbor is defined in the Bible as a “friend” or “another.” It really is everyone.
This knowledge can help you really open your heart and mind to know who God is calling you to love daily, even if it’s not always easy. We can’t give up, because God didn’t give up on us.
A neighbor in the Old Testament was someone who was close to you. Not just in relationship but in location. The person in front of you, or the one who lives near you.
“Do not plot harm against your neighbor, who lives trustfully near you.” (Proverbs 3:29, NIV)
In the New Testament, Jesus expands on this, telling you to love your enemies as a neighbor.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:43-44, NIV)
We also see it can mean another Christian.
What Does It Mean To Love Your Neighbor As Yourself?
To love your neighbor as yourself is to love someone as you would want yourself to be loved: how God loves you.
Think about how he loves you. That is how he intends you to love yourself because you are of great value to him. Love yourself like Jesus loves you, and give praise and glory to him for how he created you, too. He loves you so much that, despite the ways you’ve turned him down in the past, he keeps loving you. You can do the same for your neighbors.
Love your neighbor as Jesus loves you; model how he loves you by always making efforts to love them, even when it’s hard. He put others before himself, and you can do the same by loving your neighbor even when they don’t reciprocate.
How To Love Your Neighbor
When you think about how much Jesus loves you—and really internalize it—you will not search for love or validation elsewhere, or need recognition. You will feel so full and overjoyed.
You won’t have to think about your needs because you will know they are all taken care of. You will be able to let God’s love pour through you.
You can love your neighbor by being selfless, as Jesus demonstrated. You can be generous with your time and be intentional with the person in front of you, to really listen.
10 Ways To Love Your Neighbor
Even though it might be hard to think about loving your neighbor, you need to be intentional about it and make it a priority. This is because Jesus calls you to do this as the second greatest commandment, like the first.
“Jesus replied: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”’” (Matthew 22:37-39, NIV)
Below you will find 10 ways to love your neighbor.
1. Pray For Others
Praying for others is so powerful and necessary. It can change their hearts to accept Jesus.
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.” (Colossians 4:2-4, NIV)
Be diligent to pray for your neighbors and for opportunities to share the gospel. Pray to show them Jesus’s love in your interactions with them. The littlest things make a big impact.
2. Act Wisely Towards Others
Have you ever heard the saying “actions speak louder than words?” There is great truth to this.
In loving your neighbor, make it a point to act wisely.
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” (Colossians 4:5, NIV)
Don’t engage in things that go against God’s word, even if they’ve done them to you. You don’t want to be a hypocrite. We all should want to be people who represent Jesus with integrity, showing others who Jesus really is: loving.
To live this way, make sure you yourself are in God’s word daily—as often as you can—praying, and taking your hurts, pains and grievances about your neighbor to him. Walk in his righteousness to be a good example for him.
3. Have Fruitful Conversations
Your conversations with your neighbors can really demonstrate who Jesus is to them. Therefore, you must make sure you are responding with love and not being judgmental.
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6, NIV)
Pray for wisdom when you speak to others. God knows their hearts. Pray for his Spirit to speak through you.
Listen to their opinions and be tolerant. How you listen to others can demonstrate to them that Jesus wants to hear them also, no matter where they’re coming from.
4. Be Hospitable
Our homes can also be used to show God’s love, by having meals with others and helping them if they have a need.
We also want to really know others on a personal level, so we can show them how Jesus sees and knows them. We can do this by being people who freely and happily open up our homes to others, again and again, even if we face rejection.
“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:9, NIV)
Make it a point to go out of your way to invite others (particularly those you feel God calling you to invest in) over to your home for fellowship—believers and non-believers alike. Surrender your home to Jesus as a place that can be used for ministry, to glorify him.
5. Show Compassion For Others
When others have gone through a tragedy, are you eager to help? We shouldn’t just be sad when we hear about the terrible things our neighbors go through… we should try to help as we can; this is being compassionate.
God calls us to be this way: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12, NIV)
This allows you to demonstrate Jesus’ radical love to others. You can do this by helping others with practical needs or offering to bring them a meal or to listen to them, pray for them, and encourage them.
God’s love is active and we should demonstrate it in this manner.
6. Be Generous With Others
When your neighbor shares a practical need that they have, are you eager to help them? God wants you to be generous with what he has given you and help your neighbors in need.
“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 John 3:17, NIV)
Giving your hurt to God and choosing to be generous shows them his love—that he lives within you. When you see your neighbor in need, be generous as God calls you to. God has given to you and has blessed you so much. Listen to the needs of others and be eager to help them when in need: giving time, possessions or money as you can.
7. Be A Good Listener
You might find yourself having different opinions from others. This can cause you to get angry or not want to engage with someone.
But God calls you to be a listener; it’s a powerful thing we can do to show his love, as opposed to getting upset. We see this in the book of James.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20, NIV)
This will allow you to be loving toward your neighbors and not let anger win out. It will show them God’s love as you walk in his righteousness.
Pray to be a listener and not to respond in anger when you disagree with them or you feel insulted by a comment they make.
8. Don’t Gossip
If your neighbor confides in you about something, it’s so important that you don’t share it with others. Just because you know your neighbor is gossiping about you, it doesn’t mean you should choose to do the same to them.
“Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people. Do not stand idly by when your neighbor’s life is threatened. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:16, NLT)
You want to be someone who is trustworthy and a safe person. Don’t gossip by sharing what others tell you in confidence. You would want the same courtesy also. Be a neighbor that keeps what others share with you to just you and them—so you can show them God.
9. Be Patient With Others
God wants you to be patient with others. That is a characteristic of his love.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” (1 Corinthians 13:4, NIV)
Love your neighbor with great patience, despite their shortcomings toward you, or in how they treat you.
Be patient; so long as it’s safe, keep trying to get to know them and show them his love by listening, by asking them over to dinner or even to your church.
10. Talk To Them About Jesus
It’s so important to be willing to share with your neighbors about God. Make it known that you’re a Christian—try to lead them to Jesus and show them who he is. We read this in the book of Mark.
“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’” (Mark 16:15, NIV)
Pray for opportunities to share the gospel and for boldness not to be scared. Fear and not wanting to feel rejected can get in the way. Give these feelings to Jesus and know that this is the best way to love your neighbors: guiding them to know him.
God calls you to love your neighbor as yourself, even when they make it difficult. These 10 ways to love your neighbor can really help them experience Jesus.
Get to know the people Jesus puts in your life. He has intentionally put them there for a reason and for a season. Make the most of it. Love them well as he calls you to.