Review: Loving My Actual Neighbor

*I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Cover courtesy of Baker Books

Author Alexandra Kuykendall asks a seemingly simple question in her fourth book, Loving My Actual Neighbor: how, exactly, do we love our neighbor? It seems simple, but in an increasingly isolated and online world, it is anything but.

When Jesus named the second greatest commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:38), the common interpretation is that He wasn’t talking about just our literal neighbors, but every person who is in some way in close proximity to us: our family, friends, co-workers, community members, and, yes, our literal neighbors. Kuykendall takes this commandment to heart and emphasizes geographical neighbors, examining what loving our actual neighbor means in the context of our own lives and offering practical tips on where to get started.

I especially loved chapter 4, “Standing in the Awkward,” which acknowledges the elephant in the room that sometimes talking to people you don’t usually talk to is going to be awkward and weird. This awkwardness often stems from fear, fear that we won’t be accepted, that we’ll put ourselves out on a limb and end up falling on our faces. It’s an idea Kuykendall acknowledges even in the introduction, and that is woven throughout:

“Despite these self-focused hang-ups, I know it’s not all about me. That’s the idea behind loving our neighbors, right? That we move past our agenda, comfort, and convenience and toward love.”

The end of the book includes a section on some very practical ways to actually start loving our neighbors, including “Ten Ways to Connect with Families Throughout the Year,” “Ten Ways to Love Your Homebound Neighbors,” and “Ten Reasons to Have a Block (or Street or Building) Party.”

If I had one complaint about the book, it was that it was too short! I wanted to read more. Kuykendall’s writing style is very engaging, and I would have loved to see her go a little more in depth with some of her ideas. But, this was, after all, supposed to be a practical guide to loving our neighbor, so maybe was not the place for a theological treatise.

This book challenged me to examine the human connections in my own life in the context of Jesus’ love, which is what it set out to do and what I was hoping for when I began reading.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Loving My Actual Neighbor by Alexandra Kuykendall is out April 2.

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