And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall 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: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28-31
I was raised in a Christian bubble for my most of my life, so I’ve known this passage for as long as I can remember. Though, verse 31 didn’t fully sink in until I experienced it first-hand from my Muslim friends.
Yes, that’s right, God used my Muslim friends to show me what loving my neighbor should look like in my everyday life.
My husband and I met this family through a local refugee food distribution. As we talked to the mother through the help of a translator, we learned that they had only been in the country for a couple of months. While her husband had found a stable job, they were still struggling to provide for their family of four, and her third child was due in a few weeks.
Moved by her story, I pulled together a few things that she needed for her children the following week and thought, “Okay, I’ll knock on the door, tell her that she is loved by Jesus, give her these items, and leave.” I didn’t want to impose on her family and I figured our language barrier would make communication difficult.
I knocked on her apartment door and it flung open. Without even noticing the items I brought, she wrapped her arms around me and said, “I love you, I love you, I love you.”
Shocked. Happy. And honestly confused. You love me? She welcomed me in and insisted I sit down. We struggled through a conversation and just as I was about to leave, her English-speaking husband walked in. “Stay for lunch, yes?”
I looked at my watch and said, “I really should be going.”
He replied with a smile, “Why? We have a great traditional meal prepared. Stay!”
I will never forget that lunch. Not only was the food amazing, but the conversation was enlightening, entertaining, and sincere. There weren’t any forced questions, and while they were aware of my Christian faith, they welcomed me literally with open arms. He talked to me about the job he had in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army, the deep love and respect he has for his wife, and he even candidly shared the story of Adam and Eve from the Quran with me.
Here I am, equipped with truth, love, and freedom given to me by Jesus Christ, and yet this family, who does not even know Jesus like I do, was teaching me how to love a complete stranger.
How often do I open up my home for a stranger? When was the last time I prepared a meal for someone I barely know?
We are not called to love our neighbors who are similar to us. And do I excitedly share stories from the Bible with those who may disagree with me, unafraid of the awkwardness that it might bring?
To be honest, I often refrain from sharing the gospel with someone because I’m subconsciously worried it might come off offensive or preachy. But my Muslim friend wasn’t worried about sharing his beliefs with me at all.
We are not called to love our neighbors who are similar to us. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them” (Luke 6:32).
I pray that my new friends will someday believe in the death and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. But until then, I will continue meeting with them and pursuing a true, sincere friendship.
We can easily become trapped in our Christian bubbles, never creating relationships with those who disagree with us. We fear the awkwardness, we get uncomfortable, and we are ruled by the idea of not offending anyone. But this is why we are here, to be an example of Jesus Christ, and to love our neighbors, all of them.
This may require much of us, but Jesus gave His entire life for our salvation. The least we can do is give up a couple of hours, open our homes, and serve lunch to a stranger.