One thing I love about living in the south is the cultural hospitality. I’m sure it exists in other parts of the country, but around these parts, casseroles and coffee cake are a love language.
My fondest memory of love baked at 350° was after the birth of my first baby. I came home from the hospital on Mother’s Day. I found a casserole in my fridge and a Mother’s Day card on the table. My friend Jeanna’s poppyseed chicken casserole nurtured my weary soul. As I cuddled my sweet bundle in one arm, I spooned creamy bites into my mouth with the other. My friend perceived my need and met it. Her acts of service said, “I see you, and I love you.”
Over the next two weeks, women from our church provided dinner for this sleep-deprived mama. Simple meals like pizza and BBQ, as well as complex dishes like hand-stuffed manicotti, came with the same sentiment—I see you, and I love you. My husband felt it, too. One night, while enjoying one of these love-meals, he declared, “We need to have another baby soon. This is awesome!” (At that point I still couldn’t sit without discomfort, so I gave him a swift and emphatic, “NO!”)
The Greatest Commands
When asked to specify which command is the greatest, Jesus offered a one-two response: love God and love your neighbor (Mark 12:28-34). A young lawyer seeking clarification on that second part asks, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan. It’s one we know well, the go-to example in Scripture of seeing a need and meeting it. It expands the definition of neighbor to include anyone on our path in need.
Love your neighbor. The command can overwhelm. There are so many neighbors with so many needs. Between the headlines and our Facebook feeds, we find a dozen or more people groups in need of help. Where do we begin?
We find the answer in that age-old tale of the Samaritan. He found his neighbor on an ordinary day as he traveled an ordinary road. He extended a hand to help a stranger. He made the wounded man his neighbor when he showed him charity. He said, “I see you, and I love you.”
Where do we begin loving our neighbor? Start with that person right in front of you.Where do we begin loving our neighbor? Start with that person right in front of you.Click To Tweet
Who is My Neighbor?
My search for my neighbor starts with my immediate family. My husband is my neighbor. He needs my respect, love, and attention daily. I show my children that I see and love them when I make their favorite meal, read to them at bedtime, and listen as they share the details of their day.
I find my neighbor down the road in a family member recovering from surgery. A call to check in and a bag of groceries goes a long way lets him know his needs are noticed and met with love. I show love to the neighbors in my small group when I take the time to send a card in the mail to say “I’m praying for you,” or “happy birthday.”
While in the community, I find my neighbor at the market, struggling to reach the pinto beans from her motorized cart. My neighbor shows up at the busy intersection where I smile and wave them through. I discover my neighbor at the entrance of the library, struggling with a stroller, a crying toddler, and a stack of books. An encouraging word and a helping hand warms the heart and eases the burden. These small kindnesses are simple acts of service to say, “I see you, and I love you.”Small kindnesses are simple acts of service to say, 'I see you, and I love you.' #loveyourneighborClick To Tweet
There is a time to reach out to those not directly in our path, to invite someone far away to be our neighbor. But let’s not get paralyzed by the overwhelming needs of all the people and miss the needs right in front of us.
Where will you find your neighbor today? How will you say, “I see you, and I love you”?
Are you a little unsure how to make a stranger feel seen and loved? Take a look at five ways to show a stranger the love of God using Gary Chapman’s model of the Five Love Languages. (Click here to read more.)
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Photo credit: Kimson Doan via Unsplash.