The Second Greatest Comandment

The Second Greatest Comandment

Mark 12: 28-31 (NIV)

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

As I was considering the topic for today’s devotion, I came across the scripture above from Mark 12. I remember preaching on this scripture some time ago, but when I consider what has transpired in our country over the last year, this scripture has an even greater impact. This text highlights a need that has no doubt been magnified by current day events.

This may make me sound like an old guy, and perhaps I now belong in that category, but I miss the days when Americans knew their neighbors. I miss the days when I would come home from a long, rigorous day of playing, and find my dad sitting on the front porch talking with people from the neighborhood. I remember a day when our neighbors would come to our house and just walk in. No knock required. No need for permission, they just walked in because they knew they were welcome. Many of these individuals knew they were our unofficial extended family.

Now, I am aware that we may never return to a Mayberry state here in America again, but that doesn’t stop my desire to return to a more civilized, less busy, nation. As Americans moved out of the city to create “better lives” for their families, something changed. We thought we would be better off in the burbs. In some ways admittedly we are, but it started a trend of longer commutes. Longer commutes meant more hours away from home for many. Then came the garage. All of a sudden, every suburb home had a garage. Great idea, it keeps the vehicle out of the sun and away from the elements of nature, but it had a downside. The garage trend changed things, we were pulling into our garages, closing the door, and inadvertently avoiding our neighbors.

As time moved along, we grew accustomed to not knowing those who lived across the street or on either side of us. Some might even say we became fearful of “The Neighbors.” It’s hard to fear people we know. However, if we are honest, it’s pretty easy to fear people we don’t know. You get where I am going with this. You guys are smart, no need to keep painting a picture/providing examples.

When Jesus asked what the most important commandment was, He was quick to answer and say that we should love the Lord with all our hearts and with all of our strength. But, He followed that up by stating that the second most important commandment is to love our neighbors the same way we love ourselves. That command from Jesus has not changed. America has changed, culture has changed, Covid has forced us to change, but His words have not changed.

There-in lies the conundrum. How do we love people we never speak to or never see? Even better yet, how do we love people in the midst of a pandemic? Thousands of people, who were not isolated pre-Covid, have now found themselves alone for many months. If I’m honest, I don’t have the answers, but I do think we are smart enough to think outside of the box. If there has ever been a time in history when loving our neighbors is important, that time is now.

Perhaps what is sparking this thought process in me is the fact that we recently moved. Since moving we have been extremely busy (the American way). But, once again, I am asking myself how I can get to know the people around me, the people in my own neighborhood. The easy answer is don’t, but that only leads to assumptions about those who live around us. Putting on blinders as we enter and exit our homes is the opposite of loving our neighbors.

Maybe this doesn’t apply to everyone who reads this blog. Some of you may be in the country and have no neighbors, other may have space between you and your closest neighbors. If that is your scenario, then ignore my forthcoming challenge. If the former does not apply, then please allow me to throw out a simple challenge. The first step to loving your neighbor, or anyone for that matter, is knowing your neighbor. I want to challenge you to figure out a way to get to know someone around you that you did not know prior to reading this post. I know we are in the midst of a pandemic, but find a way to let them know you care. Find a way to show the love of Christ to someone who may desperately need it. The months of isolation have been taxing on many. The very person the Lord puts on your heart to reach out to, may need it more that you could ever imagine.

Again, I don’t have all the answers, but I do know we can send them a gift card. We can have dinner or lunch delivered to their home, we can drop a note introducing ourselves and leaving our phone number should they have an emergency. I know this is a difficult ask, but yes, even in the middle of Covid madness, we still need to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Who will you reach out to this week? Let’s defy the odds and love people in some unique ways. When we do this…we become the hands and feet of Jesus.