In Rwanda we have a saying — “Ifuni ibagara ubucuti ni akarenge.” This literally means, “a hoe that cultivates friendship is a foot.” In other words, we love our neighbor by visiting them and helping if they need anything.
No matter where you live, loving your neighbor is an integral part of our call as Christians. Having served alongside local churches in Memphis and Rwanda, we have seen first-hand how loving your neighbor comes in all shapes and sizes.
In some places, loving your neighbor might mean sharing baked goods. In another, it may mean dropping by unannounced for an afternoon tea. And still, for others it could mean fetching water or making bricks for a neighbor who is building a house. Yet, no matter where you live, one thing remains the same: We love because God first loved us. That’s why today, we’re sharing 7 Ways to Love Your Neighbor.
1. Take the Initiative and Value Small Acts of Kindness
Helping one another without being asked to do so is part of the culture in Rwanda. And doing something for your neighbor does not always require much. If your neighbor is sick, you could visit them, deliver groceries to them or take them to the doctor when necessary.
In rural Africa, if a neighbor is building a house, you could lend a hand by fetching water for them, making bricks or finding wood. In short, loving your neighbor is in action more than words.
2. Spend time
Quality time is said to be one of the five major ways people experience love. That’s true no matter who you are or where you’re from. When refugee families first arrive in the U.S., many often feel isolated with no family, no community and no means of transportation. Even if there is a language barrier, the simple act of spending time with our neighbors can make a world of difference. Whether you pop in for a tea or a walk, just knowing that someone cares and that they are not alone allows refugee families to feel the love of Christ through our actions.
3. Share a meal
Sharing a meal is perhaps one of the best ways to show our love for our neighbors. Whether it’s at your home or theirs, breaking bread together meets not only a physical need but also the mental and spiritual need for relationship.
No matter where you live, meals are an opportunity to connect, sharing our own culture while experiencing someone else’s. Especially for many refugees rebuilding their lives in the U.S., sharing a meal also demonstrates respect and interest in their life and culture, something that may often be overlooked in their new home.
4. Foster Reconciliation
Loving your neighbor can encompass more than lending a hand. It’s also reconciling relationships. In some Rwandan communities, church members often disregarded people from other denominations, sometimes to the point of viewing them as non-believers and refusing to work together.
After being trained by World Relief, church leaders, volunteers and program participants are reaching across denominational lines to adopt a culture of loving their neighbor by acting together. They’ve realized that together, as a unified body, they can accomplish much more, and they’re seeing ripple effects of love, joy, peace and harmony across whole communities.
Ask yourself — is there someone I can love by moving toward reconciliation and forgiveness? Is there someone I disagree with politically or denominationally that I can build a connection and a friendship with?
Paying close attention and listening to what your neighbors are saying is so important. We may have had very different upbringings and viewpoints, but we are all made in the image of God, and each of us has a story to tell. By listening to that story, we’ll learn new ways in which we can be intentional with our neighbors, showing them that they are welcomed and loved.
While loving our neighbors on an interpersonal level is who we are called by Christ to be, sometimes systemic injustice is at the root of a problem, and loving our neighbor means advocating with them as well.
Advocacy is speaking up with those who are vulnerable to address the underlying causes of injustice by influencing the policies and practices of people in power. By starting with the reality of “what is,” we can leverage our voices to make systemic changes that lead to a vision of “what should be.”
7. Go Together
At World Relief, we believe we can accomplish so much more when we go together. In the U.S., our church partners form Good Neighbor Teams who work together to welcome and serve their new immigrant neighbors by taking them to appointments, picking up groceries or fostering friendships over lunch or dinner.
In places like Rwanda and Haiti, Outreach Group volunteers pair up to visit the homes of struggling families. Outreach Groups give local churches the opportunity to intentionally engage the community in a consistent way at a wide scale. Ordinary church members are equipped to do what Jesus taught and did — reaching out to their neighbors to share messages that lead to holistic development and facilitate relationships.
If you’re considering reaching out to a neighbor or participating in a service project, why not ask someone to join you, so this movement of love can grow further?
Living justly and loving our neighbor is better when we do it together. Share this article with a friend and invite them to join you in loving your neighbors this week.
Bailey Clark serves as the Communications Coordinator for World Relief Memphis. With a background in journalism and advertising, she is passionate about storytelling and its power to make a difference.
A pioneer in the documentation space, Emily Kankindi is the communications and documentation unit coordinator at World Relief in Rwanda. She started with World Relief in 2005 and has been growing through different stages while pursuing a career in creative communications with a passion to tell the story of impact. Driven by a mission to serve the most vulnerable, Emily is best known for inspiring others to care and serve the needy by using all possible means of communication to promote and call forth positive ramifications of WR interventions in all aspects of life. Her educational background is marketing and travel operations.