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How to Have the Courage to Love Your Neighbor

It’s not always easy to reach out to someone in need, but when we do, we change the world.

Being neighborly
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

“Love your neighbor” is a common theme in major religions. In Judaism, the Torah commands, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Scripture also instructs Christians to “love your neighbor as yourself.” The Hindu writings teach, “This is the sum of duty, do naught unto others what you would not have them to do to you.” The Qur’an states “…do good to those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers…” Yet we all struggle and often come up short in loving our neighbors, regardless of our faith.

Too often we miss the opportunity to be available to our brothers and sisters in need of help and care. When a stranger approaches, we may cross the street. Or we may be too absorbed in our own problems or in caring for loved ones to realize that we’re not paying attention to our neighbor.

Sometimes fear of being rejected holds us back from helping someone. Or we struggle with impartiality, prejudice and bias in helping others from different social, religious and cultural backgrounds.

Although we know loving our neighbor is the right and moral thing to do, it takes courage to live it out. It means stepping out of our comfort zone. It requires intentionality and daily practice. Jill Briscoe, author of Can A Busy Christian Develop Her Spiritual Life?, tells a story about when she heard gossip that her neighbor’s husband had left her. She knew the neighbor casually. When they spoke, which wasn’t often, they talked about the weather. In her community, she realized, most people didn’t know each other.

Jill struggled with what to do. Visit her neighbor or pretend she knew nothing and go on with her day? Finally, she summoned the courage to walk over and pay a call. When her neighbor opened the door, Jill shared that she had heard through the grapevine that her husband had left. Could she do anything? The woman burst into tears and said, “Come in, come in.” Jill spent the entire morning listening, putting her arm around her neighbor and having coffee. It was the start of a relationship.

Fred Rogers, who created and hosted the preschool television series Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, once said:

“All of us, at some time or other need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to the world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors—in our own way, each of us is a giver and a receiver.” 

In these challenging times, let us choose to be the neighbor our faith calls us to be. When we do, love wins and makes the world a better place for everyone.

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