by Julie Bruce
Who are the people you consider to be your neighbor? The people that live in the house next to yours, or across the street? Maybe all the people who live on your street or in your housing development.
In Matthew 22:39, Jesus taught us that we should Love our neighbors as we love ourselves. What are some of the ways you demonstrate love to those whom you identify as your neighbor? Maybe invite them over for dinner, or get their mail when they go out of town. Maybe check in on them if they are elderly. Maybe mow their lawn while they recover from surgery.
Now that you have identified who your neighbors are, let’s look at the word “neighbor.” According to Webster’s dictionary, a neighbor is “one living or located near another.” The word is derived from the old English phrase “the boor that is nigh thee.” In that time, a “boor” referred to a group of agricultural laborers that came from other lands. However, when the word is used today, we are referring to someone that is ill-mannered or insensitive. With the background knowledge of the word “neighbor,” would you change or add people to your list of neighbors?
The point is, a neighbor is not just the people in the house next door, across the street, or in your community. It also includes the people that live in the same house as you….your spouse and children. Did you include them in your list?
When Christ said we were to love our neighbor as ourselves, it was a command, not a suggestion or an option. He even included our enemies as our neighbor when he told the story about the Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:25-37). Read the story below:
Just then an expert in the law stood up to test Him, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the law?” He asked him. “How do you read it?” He answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.
“You’ve answered correctly,” He told him. “Do this and you will live.”
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus took up the question and said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.’ “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
“The one who showed mercy to him,” he said.
Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.”
The Jews and Samaritans had been enemies for centuries. In the eye of a Jew, a Samaritan was considered to be ceremonially unclean, a social outcast, and a religious heretic. Yet in this story, it was the hated Samaritan that took pity on the victim that had been robbed and beaten. It was the man that was seen as being disgusting and dirty that gave freely of both his time and his money to help the Jewish victim. At the end of the parable, Jesus challenges us to “Go and do the same.”
So even if you feel like you hate your spouse and there is nothing left to give to your marriage, Jesus commands us to love him/her as we love ourselves. In Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus taught:
“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, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Did you find ways that you show love to your neighbors that you are not showing to your spouse? Was it more difficult to think of things you do for yourself or was it harder to think of things you do for your spouse? How do the things you do for yourself compare to what you do for your spouse? Are the things you do for your spouse a burden, or do you enjoy doing them? What could you do for your spouse that you are not currently doing? Take a few minutes and reflect on these questions and pray about what the Holy Spirit has revealed to you.
If you feel like there is more you could be doing to demonstrate love to your spouse, I recommend the book called, “The Love Dare” by Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick.
Maybe you are at the point where you feel like you have nothing left to give your spouse….or maybe your spouse wants to end the marriage and you are not ready to give up…much like the couple in the Fireproof movie. The Love Dare book could help change the direction you marriage is taking. Watch the clip from the “Fireproof” movie where “The Love Dare” was first introduced to the world.