By Chris Higgins
A few years ago I was approached by an elderly lady in a mall parking lot as I was walking to my vehicle. She asked if I could spare a couple dollars to help her out. I listened to her story, but I declined as politely as I could. I reasoned to myself that I frequently do help when approached for a handout.
Yet as I walked to my vehicle, a motorcycle, I distinctly felt the Lord impress upon me to give her the five dollar bill I had in my pocket. So I put on my helmet, started my bike, and proceeded to ride toward the lady, who was now at the other end of the parking lot. However, she didn’t know that it was me and seemed to be frightened by an unidentified biker riding toward her. So she ran. And I, not about to ignore the Lord’s prompting, pursued her. After a short chase, I finally caught up with her and gave her the money.
Who Is My Neighbor?
One day Jesus was asked by a teacher of the law to name which commandment was the most important. Jesus, predictably, cited Deuteronomy 6:4, 5, which every good Jewish person would have had memorized. But then, unpredictably, Jesus gave a close second to loving God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. Though “love your neighbor as yourself” is in Leviticus 19:18, I don’t think the crowd saw that one coming.
This matter of loving neighbors as self is not easy to understand or practice, as it begs the question of who exactly is my neighbor. Or more precisely who is not my neighbor. I think this is why (as Mark 12:34 informs) “from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.”
Loving God by Loving Others
Mark 12:33 couldn’t be more clear. Loving God is, in part at least, demonstrated by loving others as ourselves. When we try to define exactly who is a neighbor and who isn’t, we miss the point of loving God with heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Our neighbor could be the person living next door or down the street. He could be a close friend who needs encouragement or accountability. Or she might just be someone you are chasing down in a parking lot when the Lord convicts you to broaden your definition of neighbor—at least for that day and that time.
Chris Higgins ministers with First Church of Christ in Owosso, Michigan. He and his wife, Lori, have three children: Daniel, Andrew, and Becca.