Love Thy Neighbor

It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day stresses of life, isn’t it? And it’s not just rushing to work, eating right, and making time for your loved ones and friends. We live in a stressful season; Christmas is coming upon us and all its trappings of gift-giving. And we live in a stressful time; there might be great political divides in our country and somewhere in the world, conflict, and strife prevail.

With all this uncertainty and fear happening around us, we can choose to live our lives in quiet comfort. We can mow our lawns and vie for the neighborhood award of the best front yard of the month. We can fight for our kids go to the best schools so that they can be surrounded by the right kind of people. And while there is nothing wrong with having a pretty yard and wanting your kids to thrive, perhaps you might also be itching for something more.

Here is one way we can be more: we can provide encouragement to the people God has placed in our lives. Instead of withdrawing from the world, we can allow others to experience the grace that has blessed us.

Think about it: while we might have vastly different life experiences, opinions, or political inclinations, we all want essentially the same things. To be loved. To be understood. To be forgiven. We know that God loves us so much, but sometimes we need to be reminded that God loves others, too. And sometimes God needs to use us to reach those whom He also loves.

Be a Good Neighbor

*“Learn to do good. Seek justice.
Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans.
Fight for the rights of widows.”
--Isaiah 1:17 (NLT)

So, how can we encourage those around us? Here are some things to keep in mind:

Ask God to show you where you can provide encouragement. What communities are you a part of? Your community can be your neighbors, your workplace, your school, or even that coffee shop that you visit every Saturday morning. Is God asking you to push into a specific community? Is there one that is dear to your heart—or one that is challenging? Those inclinations may be God trying to tell you something.

Next, prepare to get out of your comfort zone. Jesus continually encouraged His disciples to reach out beyond their comfort zones. He taught them how to pray with strangers so they can be healed. He let the little children come to him even though the adults didn’t want the children to come near. He equipped women like the woman at the well or his dear friend Martha at a time when women were to be seen and not heard. Sometimes to reach others whom God has placed in our hearts, we need to reach those people where they’re at. We might need to learn another language or change our lifestyle so we can be available to encourage others.

Love as Jesus would. Look at the parable of the Good Samaritan. Luke 10:35-37. It’s a great example of how to serve as Jesus would serve. The Samaritan served the beaten man left for dead by the roadside. The Samaritan acknowledged the man’s humanity and did what he could to ensure that the man could be restored to health. May we be as life-giving to those around us.

Ask God to show you how can provide encouragement. And yet, encouraging people in your community doesn’t mean you need to make big, sacrificial gestures like the Good Samaritan. If you want to organize a food or clothing drive, that’s great; you can also watch someone’s child for a few hours so your neighbor can get some much-deserved rest, or you can hold the doors for others or let an old man have your seat on the bus. You can yield to cars changing lanes on the highway. And you can pray silent prayers for that child that neighbor, that driver, or that old man. There are so many small gestures you can do every day to bestow grace to someone else. Ask God what encouraging gestures you can make even today.

And so, with Christmas approaching, let’s add encouraging others to our gift list. It might be the stress-relieving antidote we all need.

Joanna Marsh is a wife and mother living in Washington, D.C. By God's grace, she writes for a living. She enjoys meditating on Jesus' mercy and His grace, and she is delighted when God actually uses her to help others experience His love.