What if I told you that the most meaningful, profound adventures of your life were hiding in plain sight? That many of your deepest human longings will not be satisfied by the infinite possibilities of the wide world, but rather through the narrowness of the next door over.
Jesus knew this. That’s why he gave us the second greatest commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. Unfortunately, most of us don’t really live it. We gloss over it or temper it into a kind of generally positive sentiment toward our fellow humans.
When we do that, not only do we ignore one of Jesus’ most important commands, but we miss out on some of the best life experiences. I’m convinced this simple commandment is one of the secret passageways that lead to the most meaningful, profound adventures of our life. And it’s always sitting right in front of us.
Let’s break it down and think about what this simple instruction is really asking (commanding) of us. There’s genius in it.
Who is your neighbor?
You don’t get to pick your neighbor. And God designed it this way on purpose. We like expanding the idea of “neighbor” to include everyone, because then we can pick and choose the neighbors we focus on. And of course we pick the neighbors we like most and who are easiest to love. But when everyone does this, only the easiest-to-love end up getting loved, and the rest fall through the cracks.
God knew better. That’s why the commandment is love your neighbor. Not love your friends. Not love your fellow human. But Love your neighbor. Because your neighbor is just the next guy over. You are commanded to love the people directly next to you. Love the family in the house next-door and across the street. Next-door means the next door over. The homes closest to you. You are commanded to love them. You don’t get to pick. This way nobody falls through the cracks. It also challenges us to love much bigger and deeper than we otherwise would because then we also have to love even the hard-to-love (and they are stuck trying to love us).
The command is not just love your neighbor, it’s love your neighbor as yourself. And let’s be clear — loving your neighbor as yourself is not just treating people the way you want to be treated when you happen to interact with them. No! It means that if your neighbor has a problem, it’s now your problem. It means taking on your neighbor’s troubles and burdens as your own. It means joining your neighbors in their trenches and being inconvenienced by their problems.
What’s that? You have enough troubles of your own? No time to take on your neighbor’s troubles, too? So you’re saying you have no time for God’s second greatest commandment. Somehow I don’t think that excuse is going to fly when we die.
What is love?
In all of this we must remember that loving your neighbor is not just feeling for them or understanding their pain, but doing something about it. Love is an action, not a feeling. You have been commanded to do something about it. So do something.
All of that is loving your neighbor as yourself. And Jesus said it’s more important than just about everything else we spend our day doing.
Do you want to experience the most satisfying, profound and meaningful adventures of your life? Live this simple commandment. The answers to your deepest longings are not elusive potentialities to be found at the end of some long journey. They are tangible personalities already waiting to be found right now…just a few steps from your door.
(More on this in my book, Messy & Foolish — How to make a mess, be a fool and evangelize the world. Get a free copy here.)