This article is part of our This Moment Matters series. Read previous articles in the series here:
- “Does This Really Matter?” by Gretchen Saffles
- “Being an Ambassador in Your Workplace” by Fernie Cosgrove
- “Why Your Local Church Matters” by Taylor Cage
- “Surrendering Our Wallets to the God of Enough” by Laura Hardin
- “Housework is Kingdom Work” by Maggie Combs
The house was finally quiet. I swirled honey into a mug of tea and mentally recapped this day that had somehow flown yet crawled. It mirrored a seemingly endless string of days and weeks just like it: tackling work projects, tidying rooms, answering questions, folding laundry, preparing meals, driving to the next thing. In many ways, my days passed in a pleasant rhythm of productivity, but I felt troubled as I sipped my tea at the kitchen counter. Amid the flurry of activity and all the people I’d encountered, I could recall few moments of real connection. Though I lived with three people and in close relationships with several others, I couldn’t remember even making eye contact with one of them all day.
The Challenge of the Greatest Commandments
We are likely familiar with Jesus’ command known as the Golden Rule, which follows the Great Commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). The Golden Rule is the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 39). The second command flows from the first, an outpouring of our love of God in loving others. These two commands clarify Old Testament teaching and summarize the life to which we are called in God’s kingdom.
I doubt anyone would reject outright the command to love our neighbors as ourselves; we affirm the necessity and value of this call. But, if you are like me, you may feel more equipped and eager to sacrificially love some neighbors than others. The personal cost of loving the neighbors closest to us is particularly steep. It can be easier to love people with whom we don’t share space every day. Our immediate neighbors—like family, roommates, or colleagues—often receive the bulk of our time but the dredges of our intentional love.
The Challenge of Loving Our Nearest Neighbors
Many of us have felt the weight of this challenge to love our closest neighbors during recent seasons of stay-at-home togetherness. We may have found ourselves eating, working, playing, and resting with the same few people for even longer chunks of time than usual. The joys and benefits of togetherness may be accompanied by fatigue and temptation as well. Demands are high and fuses are short.
Even apart from stay-at-home seasons, it’s easy to mistake quantity time with our dear ones for quality time, or for making those many moments together matter. As I realized that night in my kitchen, sometimes the people with whom we spend the most hours of the day experience our “love leftovers.” They are also the ones who see our sin most clearly and experience its effects most acutely.
The Challenge of Our Savior’s Love
When we find we are failing to love our nearest neighbors we often feel ashamed, but the good news of the gospel invites us to something infinitely better. Consider Jesus, who both voiced the command to love our neighbor and then lived it out in perfect fulfillment. Jesus’ life as recorded in the Gospels modeled loving neighbors who are different from us (Luke 10:25–37), who are difficult to love (Luke 23:34), who don’t deserve it and have nothing to offer in return (Luke 23:39–43), and whose needs are overwhelming (Mark 5). He also loved his disciples, with whom he traveled, ate, worshipped, and lived the mundane moments of life. He invested in them, lovingly rebuked them, provided for them, and encouraged them (John 13:5–10; 20:19–22; 21:5–7).
Jesus didn’t set and live this impossible standard of love so we would spend our days striving futilely to attain it on our own and sinking into despair when we can’t. Rather, he fulfilled this (and every) command in our place, for his Father’s glory and our eternal benefit. He not only lived a life of perfect love but also died the ultimate death to atone for the rebellion of undeserving neighbors like you and me (1 John 4:10). “We love because he first loved us” (4:19). The gospel unites us with Christ and empowers us to love our neighbors as he commands.
The Challenge of Responding to Christ’s Love
Maybe the Holy Spirit is convicting you like he convicted me that night in my kitchen and many times since then, nudging you toward repentance and obedience in how you love others. I encourage you to respond to that gentle conviction with humility and with steps toward change that are informed by God’s Word and fueled by his Spirit.
Begin by praying for your own heart and for the neighbors under your roof, one by one. Ask the Lord to open your eyes to really see them. Ask him to illuminate opportunities for course corrections, to show you where you can shift from simply inhabiting the same space to serving, pursuing, and pressing in.
Consider these questions: When can you put down your phone and ask a deeper question to the person right there with you? Which neighbor needs your words of sincere encouragement and an embrace in place of irritated criticism? Can meals become opportunities to look your loved ones in the eyes and show them they matter? Who under your roof needs to hear your words of confession and repentance? Whose heart would be uplifted by a note in her lunchbox? How can you throw yourself on God’s grace and provision when the daily demands and pressing needs feel overwhelming?
Let God’s Love Overflow
God doesn’t give us his loving commands without also giving us everything we need to obey them. That night in the kitchen when the Holy Spirit stirred my heart toward transformation was many years ago, and I am still fighting, by his grace, to make moments matter with my nearest neighbors. I can see God’s faithfulness to work in me and enable me to grow in loving those dearest to me, even as I fail daily. Don’t grow weary in this good work, my friend. Choosing to love your neighbors from the overflow of the heavenly Father’s love will reap the sweetest rewards with ripple effects in eternity.
Meet the Author:
Lindsay Cournia is a counseling student at Westminster Theological Seminary and serves as her local church's congregational care intern. A military wife and mom of two kids, she loves proper grammar, overly sweetened coffee, great fiction, and deep conversations.