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How to Love Thy Neighbors


Matthew 22: 36-40— “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Everyone talks about “love,” because everyone has a need to be loved. God created us as his image bearers with the inherent desire to love and be loved. Sin has complicated and corrupted both our desire for love and our ability to love. Our love has turned towards self rather than others. When a relationship is defined by self-love rather than a love that is self-giving and self-sacrificial, we all know the results. When a community or city is defined by self-love, the results are tragic and overwhelming. 

As missionaries with Cru Inner City in Long Beach, our family lives in one of the poorest and most crime-ridden neighborhoods in the city. We see the results of self-love everyday in our city, both at an individual and community level. So many of the issues in our community are due to self-love or the unmet desire for love. When Jesus came to live and die as our Messiah and Savior, it was a demonstration of the Father’s love for the ungodly (Rom. 5:8). As he formed a new kingdom people, his love for us became the motivation and the example for us to love others. As disciples of Jesus, he calls us to this simple mission -- make disciples who make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20). The way the world knows we are disciples of Jesus is by our love for one another (John 13:35).

Jesus taught us the greatest commandments were to love God and love neighbor (Matt. 22:36-40). In his great commissioning of his disciples, he showed us that making disciples means teaching his disciples “to obey all that I have commanded.” As we seek to make learners and apprentices of Jesus, love must define us. To love our neighbors and make disciples, we must humbly learn from their culture, be present in their pain, sacrifice for their good, and only then serve to meet their needs. 

Last month, our family and community group went on a prayer walk in the neighborhood. We walked to some of the hardest spots around us in order to pray for violence to cease, for God’s peace to reign, for God’s kingdom to come. As a family with two young girls, there was a particular area that we had avoided at times. We honestly had been intimidated due to the mix of addiction, drug trafficking, gang members, and homelessness. But that evening, Jesus called us to love. We ended up meeting Nolan and Montell, and we began to hear their stories. Nolan lost his wife after a year of marriage. Montell has been living on the streets for some time. We were able to give them some cold water bottles and pray for them. Since that night, our family intentionally walks to that same area, and they have come across the street to initiate conversation with us. We’ve realized that their desires are our desires: to love and be loved. Discipleship can’t exist without the love of God shed abroad in our hearts or the love of neighbor demonstrated in word and deeds. 

Nate Wood

Cru Inner City, Long Beach, CA

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