So many of us wrestle with the desire to make a difference and help others, but we get stuck before we start. Our schedules are full enough as it is. Fears and doubts rush into our minds. We feel inadequate or underqualified. And then before we know it, we’re paralyzed without ever taking our first step. So how do we start making a difference in our communities when we live in a world that seems too busy to help others?
We can start by looking at what Jesus did—not just the words He said. In Matthew 22, Jesus is questioned about the greatest commandment. Instead of answering with one command, He gives two:
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 NIV
These weren’t just suggestions Jesus was giving us. They were a way of life He was showing us. During His ministry, Jesus traveled across towns and communities to share the love of God with people deemed “unlovable” by their society—people who were sick, poor, orphaned, and widowed.
We can see how He loved and helped others through five key areas: well-being, families, education, justice, and community empowerment.
In fact, we spent an entire season of the You’ve Heard It Said podcast learning how we can help others in our communities through these five key areas.
Here are a few things we’ve learned to help others in our communities:
1. Know who your neighbors are. If we look back at Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 22, we’ll see that He told us to love our neighbors. But who was He actually talking about? In Luke 10, someone asked Jesus just that—Who is my neighbor? Jesus responded by telling the story of the Good Samaritan.
In this teaching, a man was traveling when he was robbed, beaten, and left for dead. A priest and a Levite both saw the beaten man, and instead of stopping to help, they crossed to the other side of the road. A third man—a Samaritan—came, saw the injured man, and helped him. This Samaritan brought the man to an inn and paid for his stay so that he could recover.
So when we think about who our neighbors are, they’re simply the people God has placed around us. They might be your literal neighbor, someone you see regularly at the gym, or your coworker.
2. It’s easy to overcomplicate how to be good neighbors. When we focus on the how of helping others, we can forget why we want to be better neighbors to begin with. We love and care for those around us because we’re all created in God’s image. And this automatically means that we’re all worthy of dignity.
So when we see injustice, hurt, or inequality, it’s our job to help those who get the short end of the stick. How we help them might look different each day, but we show up no matter what.
3. Helping others is all about relationships. We believe that bringing healing and restoration in our communities starts with relationships. Relationships help bridge gaps and meet needs. Our thoughts and ideas about the world around us are challenged when we lean into the details of who our neighbors are. We end up learning new perspectives, hearing unique experiences, and learning more about what it’s like to be human in a world created by God.
4. Being a good neighbor brings our faith to life. When we start helping others in our communities, we’re going to start noticing changes in ourselves. We’re going to see the hurt and brokenness of this world, and we’ll want to do something about it. You might find that your passions grow stronger, or the things that make you angry are more prominent than you first thought.
Lean into this discomfort because it’s God bringing your faith to life—it’s transforming the information in the Bible into tangible actions that become part of your lifestyle. Your compassion will grow. You’ll love people practically. And you’ll live out the two most important commands from Jesus—to love God and others.
But even more than what you’re doing, focus on who you’re becoming. We may never see the impact of our actions, but that’s not the point. The biggest change might not be something that happens in your community, but it might be in your own heart as you say yes to God by getting to know a neighbor.
After all, we get to know God by loving one another. We’re all created in His image, which means we all reflect Him a bit differently.
So we have the opportunity to be good neighbors by helping others. The best part is, it can start by getting to know your next-door neighbor. And since this is a way of living—not just something we do—we can start today. When we do, we’ll learn more about ourselves, our neighbors, and God.