Like your neighbour as yourself.

When Jesus says ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ we say yes, we are big into loving.
If we changed that to ‘like your neighbour as yourself’ that would be weaker wouldn’t it?

I dare say it might not be, given how casually we throw about the depth of the word ‘love’.

Words are important. The Church at large can get confused and distracted because of the power narrative we talk in. We like ‘love’. We like the power of ‘calling’ and ‘love’ and ‘heart for’ and ‘big transformational prayers’. We like impressive, transformational, spirit-rising ideas. But perhaps we don’t like ‘like’.

Maybe we need more ‘like’. Maybe more ‘like’ would humbly make a dramatic difference to the mood and culture of church.

I love my neighbour so I… commit to run healing on the streets; care about their relationship with God; invite them to church/ carol services/ mums and tots/ community lunches/ alpha; prayerfully consider what way God is calling me to say to them….? (All good things).

I like my neighbour so I… make friends with them; feel I can share the tough stuff going on with my life with them; hear what is going on with them, can honour the fact that they have lived here longer than me; go fishing with them as that’s what they like doing; look after their 2 kids cause the 3rd kid is ill and they are a single parent family; learn what my neighbour likes and how they do friendship; receive gifts of fresh mango from them!…

Less noble, more humble. Less mighty, more gradual. Less spoken, more acted.

I say this as someone who started with calling, love, a heart for…, and big prayers… and I’m just finally learning how unhelpful some of those phrases can be for us all!

In Easter 2009 whilst in my third year at Oxford, I emailed Mike, church leader of a wonderful small church, and asked if “his church ran projects on council estates, ‘cause I feel called to move to a council estate in East London”. He responded firmly and told me that the church doesn’t do ‘projects’ to the local estates as he and the church live in the local estates. So when I arrived to meet him he then asked me if, in years to come, I would send my kids to local schools, or if I would move to the suburbs? And then would I stay living here if I was raped? I decided to stay (not knowing the answers to those questions!) and I learnt an awful lot from Mike and he was wonderfully welcoming. I’m grateful for his bluntness at the start.

Six years on. I have made friends. I call this home. I like my neighbours.