A thought is never secure until it is passed from the mind into the heart, and it is loved. This rule applies to all types of thoughts, which makes it a particularly dangerous principle. A bad thought loved produces relational chaos. A good thought loved leaves a positive mark on the world. Each of us gets to choose which thoughts to pass on to our hearts and love. An accumulation of good conscious thoughts serves the common good because when they are put among loves, they change their form and become our songs. Good thoughts that are loved become compassionate friends.
A fundamentally good thought is the Biblical principle of loving your neighbor. What does neighborly love look and feel like? Let’s examine two main components: (1) the command to do it and (2) what being a neighbor means.
- Mark 12:30-31 states: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
- In Luke 10:29-37, the parable of the good Samaritan is told:
- But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
- In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
- “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
- The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
- Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Simply stated, neighborly love is when we show compassion and mercy to someone else. Anyone can do it. You don’t need to be a recognized expert. You don’t need to have an impressive resume. You don’t need abundant resources or a Ph.D. It’s not simplistic, but simple. It’s not easy, but heartbreakingly hard. And it’s messy. Mistakes are made. Two steps forward, one step backward. Regular feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, confusion, grief and failure will be had. You’ll wonder if you’re doing it wrong, and you’ll be all too aware of your own sin.
This is why neighborly love has to be intentional. Plant the thought in your mind (the commandment, Mark 12:30-31) and pass it into your heart (demonstrate mercy, Luke 10:29-37). Only then can you love your broken neighbor as your broken self: “Go and do likewise.” This kind of love is transformational in ways that nothing else is.
In our divisive and conflicted world, all we need is neighborly love. It is the secret thread that forges friendship despite enormous differences in class, temperament, culture, race, sensibility, and personal history. Let us urgently examine whether we’re seriously seeking to obey God’s love command in the context of rancor, bitterness, division, and relational breakdown. Let us also examine whether we’re paying any meaningful attention to our hurting neighbors.