In the gospels, Jesus is asked what the “greatest commandment” in all of the law and prophets is. He responds by saying that the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind…” This came from a part of the law founding Deuteronomy chapter 6 called the “Shema”. This is a passage that every Jew during this time period would have known and had memorized by heart. Then Jesus continues: “…and to love your neighbor as yourself.” This was new. This changed everything. This turned the law on it’s head. Suddenly learning to love and worship God moved from focusing on only Him to know also focusing on the people He had created.
What does it mean to love your neighbor? To love the people around you? Let’s assume that when Jesus spoke of neighbors he meant everyone who is night you. Isn’t that weird? How do you go about genuinely caring for and loving everyone? I mean, Jesus did it, but He was God… Last time I checked, I’m not. I have the Spirit of God living in me, but it still makes it a little awkward.
Amy Lively has written a great book about this exact tension. It’s a memoir of sorts about how she personally wrestled with these questions about follow Christ. How To Love Your Neighbor is quick-witted and an easy read. It’s practical and needed.