According to Jesus Himself, loving your neighbor is one of the most important things you should do as a Christian, second only to loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength:
And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. —Mark 12:31, KJV.
It sounds good in theory, but what does it really mean when you apply it to everyday living? There are so many ways to show kindness to your neighbors. Obviously, you can step in and help in their times of need, but there are plenty of other ways to fulfill this tenet in everyday living.
Sometimes being kind to your neighbors simply means forgiving them when they do things that annoy, or even harm, you. Jesus believed this was so important that He included it in the prayer He taught His Disciples:
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. —Matthew 6:14, KJV.
A trespass can be a small thing, like keeping you awake with a loud party, letting a dog go to the bathroom on your lawn or taking up all the parking on your street. It can also be larger, like letting a house get so run down that it affects your property value or letting kids run wild all day and long into the evening.
We certainly don’t have to tolerate things that endanger our families, but many issues between neighbors are more a matter of inconvenience and annoyance. When you learn to let those things go, you’re showing a Christian attitude. Sometimes larger issues are actually an opportunity to help someone out in a way that allows us to be the Hands and Feet of Christ.
For small things, let them go by putting them into perspective. For example, does it really hurt you to walk that extra distance when your neighbor’s cars are in front of your house? Could that extra bit of exercise actually be good for you? Are the loud parties just occasional occurrences that happen on birthdays, holidays or other special occasions? Perhaps if you make a pleasant comment, like, “It certainly sounded like everyone was having a great time at your BBQ last weekend,” you might even earn an invitation to the next one.
For larger issues, are they a symptom of a much deeper problem? Could the person with the rundown home be having financial problems that prevent him from fixing it up? Perhaps others on your street could team up to paint the house or otherwise spruce it up, thus helping a neighbor while making the block look good again at the same time.
For the neighbor whose kids are running the streets, might she be a struggling single mom who works long hours? Perhaps you could direct her to services through your church or an agency that can help.
Showing kindness to neighbors can take the form of small acts, too. Do you have a lonely elderly neighbor? Give her a ride to the store, invite her to come to church with you or just stop by and chat for a while. Did the busy mom down the street look a little haggard last time you passed her by? Drop a small gift off on her porch, like flowers or nice-smelling hand lotion, to turn that harried expression into a smile. Compliment the man across the street, who’s always out tending his yard, on how lovely his lawn and flowers always look.
God places importance on our works, not just our words, as the book of James reminds us:
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. —James 2:26, KJV.
Kind deeds like those described above are visible demonstrations of our faith. Whenever you do any of these things, you’re directly following the words of Jesus. He placed loving our neighbors second only to loving God. When we do a kind act for another, we know that it pleases Him and that we’re fulfilling an important responsibility that we’re called to as Christians.