Green, orange, red and black, navy and gold. Those are the primary colors of the uniforms I wore from youth league through college. If you weren’t wearing those same uniforms, well, I’m sorry, but we just can’t be friends for a while during this game. We can talk after it’s all over, but while we’re playing against one another, my only purpose is to win. Sorry. Just the way it is. You’re wearing a different uniform.

That was my mentality on the field and the mentality I believe is required during a game…if you want to win.

Too often, however, this is the mentality we take in life. On the field, it works and is necessary. Off the field, something different is required of us.

Proverbs 21:10–“The soul of the wicked desires evil; his neighbor finds no favor in his eyes.”

Odds are, none reading this would consider themselves to be “evil.” We think we are basically good people. Sure, we make a mistake here and there, but we believe we are still good.

What if, though, this verse is actually true? (It is). What if the way we treat our “neighbor” really matters to God? (It does). What if our neighbor isn’t just the person living closest to us? (Also true). What if we can’t live in right relationship with God without also loving our neighbors? (We can’t).

Jesus spoke on this, of course, when he was asked which is the greatest of all God’s commandments. First, love God with every aspect of your life. Second, love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself. Everything in God’s commands, Jesus said, hang on those two. If we understand and apply those two, we will figure out everything else.

Those who the Lord calls evil, however, don’t care about that second one, even while claiming to care about the first. Put simply, if you and I don’t love our neighbors, if we don’t extend to them grace and mercy and forgiveness, we do not have the love of Jesus in our hearts, nor can we call ourselves true believers. We are not as good as we like to believe.

Who, then, is my neighbor? When asked the same question, Jesus replied with an often-repeated story about the man we call the Good Samaritan. To the people hearing that story for the first time, it was shocking. In their minds, there was no such thing as a “good” person from Samaria. Jesus challenged everything they knew and thought about who was their neighbor.

Your neighbor wears a different uniform. Or skin color, social status, hometown, school, worldview, lifestyle, and so on. If we love those who are like us, who love us already, how are we any different from the rest of the world?

Your neighbor has needs that you can meet. Physically, emotionally, relationally, financially, socially, spiritually. If we assumed no one else was going to meet those needs, how would we respond?

Your neighbor is in your path because God put him there. Every encounter is a divine appointment. What if our eyes were open to see that?

Your neighbor reveals what you believe about yourself. Am I also someone in need of grace, or do I believe I’m a good person who can do without the love of Jesus?

Your neighbor reveals what you believe about God. Did he create EVERY person in his image? Did Jesus die for the sins of the whole world?

Lord Jesus, I’m so grateful for the grace and mercy you gave me…I could never deserve or earn it. Send me lots of neighbors today, so that I can demonstrate that grace and mercy to them. Amen.