The First Commandment instructs us to love the Lord our God first and our neighbor next (just as much as we love ourselves). After being asked by an expert in Hebrew law, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) Jesus tells the story of The Good Samaritan and then asks the young man to identify which of the travelers showed love for his neighbor. The young man points to the one who had mercy, the Samaritan, a person despised by the Jews for both cultural and religious reasons. Culture viewed a neighbor as being family, those who are close, part of your own tribe. Extending the idea of neighbor to those who are outcast and rejected brought a challenge for the young man. It also brings a challenge for us. It’s easy to help those we love and know, those we accept and understand, but what about those who are outside our comfort zone? Christians are called to pour their lives into the lives of others. Just as the Samaritan gave of his time and resources to the man in need, we are called to be available, to care, to love, to encourage. It is most often inconvenient and uncomfortable. It stretches us and challenges us. Doing what God calls is not easy, but making the world a better place requires that we grow in our faith and in our efforts to reach out and make a difference in the lives of those around us. Be a good neighbor!

Scripture – Lk 10:27, 37; Mt 6:5, 16; 2 Ti 1:2-5

Verse – He answered, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” (Matthew 6:5) Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. (2 Timothy 1:4-5)

Thought – Near the end of Paul’s life while in prison, he wrote to one of his young disciples named Timothy. Paul had a dream, a vision for Timothy and wanted to share words of encouragement to support, uplift and prompt Timothy to keep moving forward in his faith. Paul states that Timothy has been influenced by the strong and genuine faith of his grandmother and mother and that Paul believes Timothy possesses the same genuine faith. (2 Ti 1:4-5) Being genuine is so important. Jesus pointed to the hypocrisy of the religious leaders in their many acts of religious piety; they were just actors playing a part for the benefit of the audience. Being real, taking off the mask and being genuine can be a challenge. We want to present ourselves as the confident, successful, got-it-all-together model of humanity, but often we are only playing a part for others to see. In order to love our neighbor, we must be genuine and allow them to be genuine with us. Honesty and integrity mean everything in any relationship. We also must be present in the moments we share with others. There are so many distractions that prevent us from fully engaging with others. We are thinking about what we’ll do next, what we’ll say next, how long is this going to take, we are going to be late, we are tired, we are bored, we want out, and that’s not including the whole phone, text situation. It’s easy to know when someone is disengaged by all that distracts them. Don’t be that person. Love your neighbor—the person you live with, work with, recreate with, by being present with them and for them. Allow God to work through your life to pour encouragement, hope and love into those you can influence. Find your Timothy and see what God will do in and through you.

Questions – Define being genuine in a relationship. If you are tired, but you act as though you are not…is that ingenuine? If you act interested in what someone has to say, but you are not…is that ingenuine? What are the signals indicating a person is not present in your conversation? Who do you know that is always present when you are together? How can you tell? Do you know people who don’t seem to ever be present anywhere? How does a person get to that place? What things keep you from being present? What do you do to keep yourself in the moment?

Response – Are you wearing any masks, hiding who you are, being a different person in different situations? If so, you need to pray and confide in a trusted Christian friend and gain guidance. When you are with another person, be present! Make that person the most important thing you have to do in that moment.

Prayer – Gracious God, thank you for those who have poured into my life by investing their time, love and energy. Help me to be genuine and present for those neighbors you place in my life. Help me to be a good and Godly influence in their lives. In Jesus Name, I pray, Amen.