Monday, January 15, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: Life lessons on how we can love our neighbors

Loving Our Neighbor
A devotional by Joy Beless

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”–Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)

The small room lined with pews is stirring with singing that comes from deep within the soul.

Eyes closed, hands keeping time, I begin the first song of worship and follow the Holy Spirit throughout the hour. Tears flow and often they are mine. No apologies. No cover-up. I am redeemed by the blood and the love of Jesus Christ and join in with the praises of my Sisters–in–Christ. Throughout following hour, I lead the women and children through songs of praise, prayer and reflections of scripture. The conversation is rich, honest and a fresh perspective from women who depend on the faithfulness of the Lord every minute of every day. The shelter for houseless women and their children is a refuge that I enter into with deep respect and humility.

Leading chapel at the shelter is the highlight of my week. Every Thursday morning, I make a 30-minute commute to be with my “neighbors”.

Almost 20 years ago, I nervously asked to volunteer at the shelter. Not knowing what to expect, I trusted the Holy Spirit’s leading and jumped in—sharing the love and hope of Jesus with the women and children who live there. I cannot begin to share all the ways I’ve experienced God’s blessings through this experience. With no facade or pretense to cover our need for Jesus, I am humbled to stand beside the women, many of whom, have a deep intimate relationship with Jesus. That is all they have. I love these people like Jesus loves us.

Let’s read what Mark 12:28-31 says concerning love: One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

This is the internal love relationship we have with God. But then Jesus told us to turn that same love outward to our neighbors. When I make God the center of everything I am, then the choice to love my neighbor will flow from that same deep well of love.

Who is my neighbor? For sure it is the person living “next door” but can also be the person in the next cubicle in my workplace, the student sitting beside me or even the difficult people who cross my path throughout the day. Sometimes, loving my neighbor requires me to advocate for those who are marginalized and need a kind word or a “cup of water” (Matthew 10:42).

Martin Luther King, Jr., a Baptist minister and leader in the civil rights movement in the 1950’s, also emphasized loving God and putting our love into action by loving our neighbor. Today, in the United States of America, many people honor his legacy by acts of service in their communities. While an important step, Jesus encourages us to not make it a once–a–year activity, but a lifestyle of loving him by loving others.

Surprisingly, when I step outside of my comfort zone and engage with neighbors who are different than myself, I open the door for God’s blessings to not only flow through me but to me. As I give, I receive in unexpected ways. I imagine Jesus with a wink in his eye, as I begin to understand how this is also a part of experiencing his love more deeply.

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:11). We can know scripture from an early age about God’s love for us. However, when we are transformed by his love, the knowledge turns into action and we have a deep desire for others to know how much they are loved by God and ultimately by us. Today is a great day to love our neighbor!

Let’s Pray: Oh Jesus, how I long to experience your love more deeply as I follow You. Thank You for teaching me not only how to love You more, but to love others from the overflow of that same love. Give me your eyes to see others as You see them and give me discernment to know how best to love them. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song for Reflection: “Love God Love People” by Danny Gokey. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Joy Beless is a worshipper of God and lover of people.

A practicing Spiritual Director, she is a speaker for retreats and conferences and facilitates guided solitude retreats at the family ranch in North Texas.

A seasoned worship leader and songwriter, she frequently weaves worship, God’s Word and spiritual practices together. She is a chapel provider for a shelter for the houseless and a certified Grief and Trauma Healing Facilitator. Serving at global retreats for Kingdom-minded women delights her soul.

She has written for Global Trellis and Missio Nexus. She connects God’s Word with the reality of our daily in all the ups and downs.

Joy is married to Roger. They live in Coppell (Texas). Joy is called "JoJo" by her nine adorable grandchildren. She enjoys the outdoors and encourages flowers to grow in the Texas heat.

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