5 reasons why we love our neighbour and serve others.
“So why do you serve at this local night shelter,” I asked the man behind the big bowl of soup. “It’s good to help”, he responded. I found his response encouraging because of his desire to be ‘nice’ but I was also struck by how his answer missed the depth of why we might serve and care for others. It is nice to be nice but it is also amazing to be like Jesus.
The call on the life of any disciple is to be the hands and feet of Jesus. When Jesus is asked what the greatest of the commandments is he responds with…
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Mt 22:37–39).
At the heart of the life of Christ and his teaching is the character and nature of God himself. The nature of a God who washes feet, serves and cares for the outsider and the one who gave his life for others. Why do we serve others and why do we love our neighbours is simply because as Christians we see the one we follow doing it. Jesus is the blueprint of our lives, he is the sound we wish to echo and the light we wish to imitate.
1. We love our neighbour because we are told to.
Simply put we love others and serve because Jesus tells us to. Jesus tells us with his words in passages such as Matthew 22:39 but also by his action. Jesus shows us how to love those who are unlovable by being with the leper, the outcast and the one on the edge. Jesus teaches us to love the ’other’ and shows us what this looks like. Reflect on how Jesus draws near to the leper in Matthew 8:1-4, he reaches out and touches the man to heal him. Jesus teaches the proudest of all the Disciples (James and John) that the greatest of leaders must be willing to be a servant to everyone else.
2. We love what God loves.
When we see a homeless person, Jesus sees a child of God. When we see someone hungry, Jesus sees a child of God. When we see someone in debt, Jesus sees a child of God. Sometimes we need a perspective shift to see others the way God sees them. Once our viewpoint moves, we realise that we too must love what God loves. John 3:16 “God so loved the world, that he sent his one and only son”. God has such love for the things we struggle to love; He sees diamonds when we see coal. When we serve like Jesus did our point of view shifts. Instead of smelly feet we see them as beautiful feet that are fearfully and wonderfully created by God.
3. Loving like God.
Every single time that we love our neighbour, we are showing God’s love to the outside world. The prayer of Teresa of Avila emphasises this: “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours”. Without neglecting the work of the Holy Spirit; but seeing it as the empowering of our hands, we become the active and tangible work of God. When we get on our knees to serve the other, when we wash the dishes, fill out a form, teach someone English, set up food banks, run debt management we are loving in the way of Jesus. Sacrificially and lovingly. We believe that Jesus ‘incarnated’ himself to humanity. When we love like Jesus we incarnate Jesus to the world.
4. When we love our neighbour, we see Jesus in them.
“When you do it for the least of these you are doing it for me”. Matthew 25:40
Whenever we serve someone in need in any form, we are doing it to Jesus himself. These are his own words. Jesus taught us to see him in every face that we meet. We can be too quick to pass judgement on the other person but to see Jesus in their face is the posture Jesus wants for his disciples. I know that when I have served and loved others, I have had my greater encounters with Jesus.
Mother Teresa is quoted as saying:
“I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself; this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus”.
5. It creates opportunities.
When we serve people and love them, we earn credibility and the opportunity to speak. We don’t love people only to get to the point of sharing the good news of Jesus, that would be manipulative. Jesus didn’t only love us in order to be able to share the Good News and his life with us – that is backwards; He loved us so much that he wanted to share the Good News and His life with us! Likewise, as we show how much we love others we then receive opportunities by our sincerity to speak of Jesus and the reasons that we love!
As 1 John 3:18 puts it:
“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth”.
Our words might be nothing but a crash of a cymbal without the proof of our actions.
In 2016 Pope Francis expressed it succinctly when he said:
“Without loving and serving the outcast our Christian credibility is at stake”.
When we live and love like Jesus our following words and actions will always have deeper believability and acceptance. We never love to earn the right to speak but we certainly can have the opportunity to do so.
Serving like and as Jesus only makes sense when we know who we are. We aren’t random people doing nice things. We are children of God, living for God and wanting people to experience the tangible love of God. Serving people is easy when we know who we are and what we are about. Our biggest purpose in life is to give our lives away to others like Christ, and in this, we will receive happiness, fulfilment, and meaning in return. Therefore go and be a blessing.