Play nice with others. Love your neighbor as yourself. Treat others as you want to be treated. I am sure each of us have heard or been told these as a reminder of how we are to act. We were taught them from a young age, and may teach them now as adults to other kids. But what does it look like, how do we do it?
A young man who thought he was really smart asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” hoping that Jesus would affirm his idea of serving his neighbor. The young man felt that his “neighbor” was his friends, those that he is comfortable with, those that he thought and looked like. He felt that this meant to love those who loved him, and who treated him well. Jesus responds to the young man by telling the story of the Good Samaritan. In this story Jesus shows that to care for our neighbors is to care for those in need, but also to show love and mercy to all kinds of people, even our enemies (Luke 10:36-37). When the young man hears this he is shocked, and leaves Jesus speechless.
Jesus tells another story later about caring for our neighbors. In the story (Matthew 25:31-46) there is a group of people who meet God in heaven, and God says to them, “Thank you for feeding me when I was hungry, and visiting me in prison.” To which the flustered people say, I don’t remember ever doing that. God simply responds to them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)
So what does loving our neighbor look like? What does it mean to serve the least of these? It means that our chances to share Christ’s love with others begin the moment that our alarm clock goes off each morning. Patrick wakes up each morning at 5:30am to get showered and ready for his day. Patrick’s morning are pretty full though, he drops off his daughter at school, then off to a morning work meeting, then back home to pick up his son to drop at another school, then back to work for the rest of the day. But Patrick wouldn’t trade that time with his kids for anything, even if it makes for busy morning of driving. “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.”
Corrie works with cognitively impaired teens and adults to teach them life and job skills. Each day is an adventure, you never know if a client will have a bad morning, have their medication adjusted, or what. But she loves the adventure and the ministry of her work, and loves her clients deeply. “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.”
Jesus call for us to serve the least of these is broad. In this Holiday season, take a moment to think about who the least of these is in your life. Perhaps it means that you send a note of encouragement to a fellow church member, invite a co-worker to lunch, or make some extra special time for a family member. So tomorrow when you climb out of bed, hit the snooze button, or drink your morning coffee, love your neighbors, all of them.