Love your neighbor for a better community

Published 10:55 am Sunday, August 13, 2023

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The Rev. Jason Stump

Oakland Christian United Church of Christ

In Matthew 22:37-39, it is written, “He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” 

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There’s much that can be unpacked about these two verses. 

The “love the Lord” part is clearly important; there’s no doubt about that. However, that doesn’t seem to be the thing many Christians struggle with, especially the most devout among us. Also, though many think differently, it is not the thing non-Christians are struggling with Christians over.

For now, I want to talk about the “love your neighbor” part. It really is quite simple, don’t you think? It’s something many Christians have a hard time with, even the most devout. It’s a common criticism of Christians- again, often directed at those claiming to be the most devout. 

Jesus gives us only two commandments. To love our neighbor is one of them. It is very closely intertwined with the other commandment. In order to love our God, who is Creator of all things, we must love our neighbors. Do you? Not just the ones next door, but even the ones in our thoughts. I would like you to consider the idea that, in spiritual matters, if someone enters our thoughts, then they have become our spiritual neighbor. That they are occupying our very thoughts seems to be pretty proximal, agreed? Myself, I sometimes miss that mark of loving all those I think about. How about you?

Ever since attending the Chuckatuck site for Suffolk’s National Night Out, I’ve had something one of my neighbors said stuck in my head. 

Roosevelt Jones is a lifelong resident of the Chuckatuck Borough. He’s a pillar of the community- loved, respected and admired by all. He loves his neighbors and lets you know it. 

While Roosevelt was introducing folks to each other, specifically making connections between new clergy like me, I heard him tell someone, “Chuckatuck is a great community. I plan to keep it that way as long as I live.” 

Now, I know Roosevelt well enough to know that he was saying this out of authentic love of his neighbors and pride in his community. I also know him well enough to know that he was offering advice, and instruction. He’s right to do so. Roosevelt knows the lessons of life and the commandments of Christ. He’s also spot on when he says, “Chuckatuck is a great community…” 

Wherever you live in Suffolk, from Burbage Grant to Whaleyville, I hope you have leaders who love your neighborhoods like Roosevelt Jones does. I hope you have a heart that loves your neighbors- those in your borough and those on your mind. It’s a commandment of Christ. It’s also a basic requirement for societies to progress in peace and productivity. 

May we all be better neighbors, Christ followers or not.


The Rev. Jason Stump is pastor of Oakland Christian United Church of Christ in Suffolk. He can be reached at