Within the past few years, I’ve heard numerous sermons defining “neighbor” in the “love your neighbor” commandment.  These recent sermons have taken my close-to-home definition and expanded it to a global level, which is a definition I’d rather not have known.

Not that I was doing a great job of loving my neighbors in the apartments around mine (or now the houses around mine), but the commandment, with its new definition, ignited fear within me.  To be terrified of flying and to think that I now needed to somehow force myself to go to Africa to fulfill this commandment made me feel like a failure.  A role I’m not comfortable with.

I also strapped on to this new “neighbor” definition a requirement, in my mind, that I needed to build houses or somehow meet my neighbors’ physical needs in order to love them well.  Not being even the slightest bit skilled in carpentry or masonry, I again felt like a failure, knowing that there was no way I could build houses for these people out of anything more than Legos (and even that may be stretching it).

So to rid myself of those self-defeating thoughts, I went back to what I know:  I know how to listen well. 

On numerous occasions, I’ve been sought out by people I’ve barely met so that they could share their deepest, darkest secrets with me.  I guess I come across as a “safe” person.  And I’ve tried to use this in my job to help people feel like they’ve been heard.  Like what they say matters, even if in the end it doesn’t change their overall situation.

How many people walk around frustrated because they don’t feel heard?  I think the millions of blogs in cyberspace give us an indication that the number is tremendous.  People want their voice to be heard, even if it’s just a random person stopping by to read what’s on their minds.  

Just as Michelle mentioned, I’ve got to get to know people before I can love them well.  For me, I think listening is the first step.  I need to be willing to pay attention to those who aren’t given the time of day.  I need to be willing to stop what I’m doing and lend an ear, even when no one else wants to.  Especially when no one else wants to.

Maybe this is very elementary, but I think that one way I can love my neighbor is by listening.  Now it’s just a matter of being intentional about it.