Other neighbors have shown hospitality, helped with various projects, and taken care of our houseplants and shoveled snow from our driveway when we were on vacation. We share grass in the front yard with the young couple next door. No matter how hard he tries my husband never gets there first to mow that grass.
Good neighbors are easy to love and as Paul repeats the words of the Law and of Jesus Christ, he makes sure that Bible readers know this is a command from God.
For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:9-10)When Jesus told the Pharisees the same thing, one of them asked, “Who is my neighbor?” He might have been trying to evade the command because the Jews thought that anyone who is a Jew was a neighbor so this didn’t apply to non-Jewish people, even if they lived next door. However, Jesus didn’t let him get away with that idea. He told the story of the good Samaritan to illustrate that a neighbor is anyone that we encounter.
Actually, this is a good question. By looking up the Greek word for neighbor, I found that it is just that; someone near or close by. The use of this word never mentions that a neighbor lives next door, but that this could be anyone that comes across my path at any time. The issue really isn’t about identifying a neighbor anyway, but about my attitude toward other people. The Bible gives this instruction:
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)I am diligently concerned with my own interests. I take care of my possessions, keep my household in order, feed my body, guard the use of my time and energy, and take care of my health. These verses say that I’m to give that same consideration to others, not with some sort of ulterior motive or thinking that I am above them and they need my help. Instead, I’m to be there for them because the humility and love of Christ are like that. Jesus didn’t have anything else in mind but my good when He gave up His life for me. That should be my attitude when I concern myself about the good of others.
I know that this is not natural. My sinful, fleshy state would think ‘me, myself, and I’ and not add anyone else to the equation. God knows that. This is why, along with hope of an eternal future, that His salvation also gives me the resources needed to obey His commands. He says,
Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:5)The love of God is available, even poured out in my heart. I’ve no excuse to not care, or to not act in love whenever I encounter someone with a need. If God has given me the ability and resources to meet that need, it doesn’t matter if the person is a ‘good’ neighbor or a total stranger. I’m to look out for and love others, period.