by Sophia Russell
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.
If the past year has taught us anything, it’s the power of connecting with others.
Take a moment to remember how you felt when someone made an effort to connect with you, perhaps with an offer of help or a well-timed word of encouragement. While small acts of love may seem mundane, they can achieve extraordinary things. They can provide refreshment for the soul, lift a broken spirit, and offer hope when times are tough. And acts of love can even bring justice for people across the world.
Feeling inspired to show love to others, but not sure where to start? Here are 12 ways you can love your neighbour well this year, no matter where you are.
Have you ever tried to catch up with someone but couldn’t find a time sooner than a month away? We live in a busy society, often rushing from one thing to the next. Intentionally clearing some space in your schedule can help you create time to invest in people and say ‘yes’ to new opportunities to serve others.
Our neighbours aren’t just people with whom we we feel comfortable. According to Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, they include those who are different from us – even strangers. To be a better neighbour, challenge yourself to say hello to someone you wouldn’t ordinarily talk to. You might find friendship where you least expect it.
Hospitality isn’t about having an Instagram-worthy home or cooking elaborate meals. It’s simply about welcoming people like Jesus does, and taking a genuine interest in their lives. Sharing a cup of tea or inviting someone to join your family for a meal can be a real blessing, especially to those who are lonely. As Hebrews 13:2 says “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
There are so many ways to connect with people in your local area. Set up your own street library, start a communal veggie patch for your apartment block, run an online book club or organise a backyard barbeque. Lean into whatever you are interested in and invite people to join you.
Proverbs 16:24 describes gracious words as honeycomb: ‘sweet to the soul and healing to the bones’. A kind word, thoughtfully spoken, can be a powerful encouragement. Try texting someone to let them know you’re praying for them, develop a habit of praising people for specific things you appreciate about them, or going old- school by writing a letter to a friend.
This doesn’t mean catching up on the latest gossip! But it’s hard to love people when you don’t know what they need. Ask someone how they’re really going or be a better global neighbour by learning more about the struggles other communities face. Local facebook groups and newspapers can be a great way to find out about pressing issues and practical needs in your community.
It’s easy to limit our prayers to the people in our orbit. Challenge yourself to pray beyond your own backyard. Start with national issues such as domestic violence, racial injustice, and refugees. Then pray for your neighbours around the world; for issues like human trafficking, slavery, and poverty.
Being a good neighbour also includes the everyday purchasing decisions you make. Our consumption has an impact on others – from garment workers facing inequitable conditions to communities dealing with the consequences of climate change. If changing all your consumer habits feels overwhelming, try starting with one manageable area, such as your clothing purchases for the new year.
We often scroll through our phones, read a headline and feel burdened, but that’s as far as it goes. Take the next step and speak out. Give feedback to companies that perpetuate injustice, sign a petition or write to your government representative. Proverbs 31:8-9 encourages us to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.”
Who could forget the toilet paper hoarding of 2020? God calls us to act differently. Accounts of the early church in the Bible paint a wonderful picture of Christians sharing abundantly with those in need, so that no one goes without. Follow their example and offer what you have to others, so we can build communities that reflect Christ-like love.
It’s not about the amount you give, but the heart behind it. Giving to vulnerable communities, especially through trusted relief and development organisations, is a great way to be a better neighbour in partnership with others. Think creatively – ask for a donation instead of birthday gifts, go without takeaway or Netflix so you can sacrificially give, or organise a fundraising event with friends.
It’s the small things that can irritate us: bad driving, inconsiderate behaviour, a rude comment. Instead of firing back or holding a grudge, follow Jesus’ example and respond with grace. There may be a deeper reason for that person’s behaviour. And a gentle response paves the path for neighbourly love.
Sophia Russell is a former journalist who loves Jesus, writing, being a mum, swimming at the beach and op-shopping at second hand stores. She is a communication specialist at Baptist World Aid in Sydney, Australia.