“Love your neighbor as yourself” is a common saying but life today is fast paced and individualized. For many it’d even be awkward to introduce yourself to your neighbors, particularly ones who have lived next door for months or years.
Certainly if we don’t know our neighbors (and by this I don’t just mean the families next door and across the street) it’s hard to act out in love for them.
|John and I in front our our Atlanta apartment. (We’re in the bottom right unit, not the whole house!)|
But what about reversing this saying – Let your neighbor love you for yourself. In other words, be embraced by your neighbor.
I think part of the difficulty in being ingrained in our communities is because we are unwilling to be vulnerable. It seems much safer for us to get home from work, lock the door, and only welcome those into our home whom we choose to surround ourselves by. We can choose our neighborhood but we can’t choose our neighbors. And there’s the rub. How can we be vulnerable with people we don’t self-select into our lives?
Yet this is exactly what we are called to do: “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another” (1 Peter 4:8-10).
To welcome someone into your home means you’re welcoming them into your heart. And to love earnestly, we must be willing to be fully known. We serve others most effectively by entering into relationships with them. Otherwise, we’re serving for ourselves – as a duty, to feel good, contribute to a cause, etc. But serving is more than a cause. It’s people in need… and many of those people are right on your street, desperate for a relationship.
To love your neighbor requires that you let them love you. If they only know the put together person that disappears behind the front door each day, then they cannot fully love you for the brokenness, heartache, mistakes, and hardships that materialize once the door is closed.
By shirking vulnerability, we deny others the opportunities to deeply love us and we deny ourselves the grace that they have to offer. And the ironic part? By letting our neighbors love us, we are in turn loving them.