Skip to main content

I  think about what it means to be a neighbor quite often. Jesus calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves, and the work that God has called me to do involves being around people often, which I love. So I often think about how to help and be hospitable to others in any number of ways and spaces.

I have been teaching a class on biblical hospitality at my church, and I have been sharing stories from my childhood that have helped shape how I love my neighbor in today’s world. I grew up in a somewhat rural area on property that connected to my extended family’s farm. Being in a rural area, you learn to know and to rely on your neighbors a lot. We didn’t have a whole lot, but we shared anything we could. And we had people at our house all the time—neighbors, family, friends, even folks that we just met.

God has called us to love God above all else and with our whole being; this is called the greatest commandment. And the second is like it, says Jesus: to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). As I reflect on that, many things come to mind. I often get asked how to live that out—how to love your neighbor as yourself. My answer is to simply start. There are simple ways to start to get to know your neighbor. A simple hello can go a long way. I have met some of my best friends in spaces I never would’ve thought I would. It can be as easy as taking opportunities when you are out walking your dog. Strike up a conversation and maybe invite your neighbor(s) over for a meal. For example, in the neighborhood where I currently live, we try to host a picnic every summer to catch up with each other and to meet our new neighbors as a group.

Related: How to Host a Community Meal and Why This Biblical Practice Matters

Sometimes, to “love your neighbor as yourself” means going outside of ourselves to get to know them. And that can take sacrifice. Christ gave the biggest sacrifice: laying down his life for us, who he calls friends. Our sacrifice doesn’t need to be that extreme, but it might look like stepping outside your comfort zone, baking an extra batch of cookies, or taking some time to run an errand for your neighbor.

After an ice storm earlier this year, I saw my neighbors giving of themselves and loving each other. First thing in the morning, we were texting each other to check in and see how everyone was doing. Then we gathered in the middle of the road to assess the damage and see how we could help one another. Even as I cleaned up the three downed trees in my own yard, I was thinking of ways my neighbors needed help right then—and my neighbors were doing the same. There was the newly single person who didn’t have a generator or saws to cut down branches, the woman who lives alone and hardly comes out, and the mom with three kids at home and a massive power line down in her front yard. We came together and loved our neighbors as ourselves.

Related: Building a Friendship: The Example of a Good Neighbor

Loving your neighbor extends beyond your actual neighborhood. Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan to explain who our neighbor is. His answer breaks boundaries of status and physical neighborhood; a neighbor is “one who shows mercy.” And showing mercy sometimes means “loving-kindness.” The person in need is our neighbor. The people in our proximity are our neighbors. That means the person sitting on the plane next to you is your neighbor, as is the person you meet at the farmers’ market.

In short, getting to know your neighbors and checking in with them are two big ways you can love your neighbor as yourself. Following the COVID-19 pandemic and other social and cultural upheavals, many people are more isolated than before and are struggling with mental health. I think of one of my college students, Sara*, who came to the United States in January 2021, when much of our world was still shut down and limited. Sara had a miserable time her first semester until things started to open up. Our campus ministry team met her and got to know her quite well. She still suffers from bouts of depression, but now she has a community to check in on her and support her when she is down—and when she is up, for that matter. We need to check in on our neighbors, lend a listening ear, help connect them with helpful resources, and live out the love that Jesus shows us. 

So, how is God calling you to love your neighbor today? Maybe it is through an outreach ministry at your church. Maybe it’s partnering with the elementary school in your community to provide school supplies or meals to kids in need. Maybe it’s getting to know your neighbor of another faith by connecting with the people at the mosque or the synagogue down the street. It could be bringing meals to people experiencing homelessness on the streets you travel. The possibilities are endless, so see how you can connect with your neighbors and neighborhood in a new way today. Invite others to join you, and start (or continue) praying about how you can love your neighbor as yourself each day.



Laura Osborne

Laura Osborne is the RCA coordinator for interreligious relations and acampus minister with the International Student FellowshipatWestern Michigan Universityin Kalamazoo, Michigan. You can connect with Laura by email at