I don’t love people well. I love the people I love and that love me in return pretty well, but certainly not perfectly. God said what good is that?! He’s got a point. Actually, He’s been talking to me for OVER A YEAR now about loving my neighbors.
God: Love your neighbors.
Me: Yep, I love ’em Lord. I pray for them.
God: Love your neighbors.
Me: Okay, Lord, I do. I love ’em! Lord, please bless so and so…
God: Get off your butt, get out of the freaking house and go love your neighbors! (Not really, but that was my interpretation and I’m assuming it’s accurate!)
We’ve lived in this house for a year and almost 4 months. I have RECENTLY met more neighbors than just the ones next door. In fact, last month I took Em to the local neighborhood park and three dads were there. I introduced myself. One I had met a year ago, the other last fall, but was just meeting the one for the first time. The first guy said sarcastically, “You don’t live in this neighborhood.” The second guy said, “Did you just move into the neighborhood?” and the third said, “Are you visiting here?” I suck! I know! I have a tendency to be reclusive, especially in winter being that I grew up in AZ where there is only summer and spring! I also covet my privacy. It may sound strange, but I have been burned several times and so like to choose who I meet and don’t meet. I know it sounds bad, but what am I going to do, pretend?! NO, at least I don’t do that! Anyway, I know I haven’t been loving my neighbors the way God has instructed so I am going to work on love, and love well.
As a result of the “Love your neighbors” conversation the Lord and I have been having for quite some time, here are some random thoughts I shared last night at The Well. I wanted to encourage anyone here with the same, to challenge you, but also to expose myself for accountability…take it for what it’s worth…
Radical love, life altering, earth shattering, mind-boggling LOVE…freely given, willingly received, nothing less expected…nothing!
Many of us are able to accept the kind of love that God has offers us. It’s the part about, “Love each other” or “Love your neighbor” or “Love your neighbor as yourself” that makes us squirm a bit. But, this one, “Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you,” well, that’s just over the top, isn’t it?! So when we don’t love the way God has commanded and shown by His very own example, are we essentially saying, “Lord, let’s not push it with the whole ‘love others’ business. I’ll do what is comfortable for me, because if You knew: my obnoxious neighbors, my crazy relatives, the psycho two cubicles down, the pedophile in the community, the lawn ornament lover next door, the bomb dropping terrorists, the person who defiled something precious to me, the woman who stole my: husband, job, boyfriend, best friend, You certainly would understand that loving them is just out of my comfort zone. Ask someone else to do it”. The only problem is God didn’t plant your neighborhood or community with simply delightful, lovely people, did He? I mean, I live in my neighborhood and I’m a recluse that likes my privacy sometimes. Actually, though, He does know all of those unlovable people cited above, including ourselves…and loves us just the same. Let’s face it, if we trace back far enough, even though we are astoundingly wonderful people, we all have a great, great, great uncle or distant relative that we most certainly wouldn’t advertise in neon lights. Hopefully by choosing to love our friends, neighbors and enemies, our future relatives won’t feel the same about us…
So what does it mean to love our neighbors? Why on earth would God include this sometimes seemingly impossible task in the Bible, and so frequently!? Or, is it one of those scriptures we can pick and choose? Aren’t there those? God wants to show His love to the whole wide world. Sometimes that enlists our willingness to love the people God has surrounded us with. His love in us is one of the tools He uses to reveal His love to others. Perhaps if we viewed ourselves as conduits to the blessing of God’s love instead of solely recipients, the command to love our neighbors would take on a whole new meaning.
Scriptures to dig deeper:
1. Jeremiah 31:33-34, Hebrews 8:10-12 One of the reasons we are asked to love our neighbors
2. Exodus 33:11-16 Friendship with God
3. Proverbs 27:5-6 Love requires truth
4. Matthew 11:19 Jesus didn’t get to choose who He died for
5. John 15:1-17 Love comes from being rooted in God
6. Matthew 5:43-48 Love for our enemies
7. Luke 6:27-36 If we love only those who love us, what’s the big deal in that?
8. Proverbs 14:20-21 Do our neighbors have to be like us?
9. Matthew 22:37-40 The greatest commandment
10. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13:13 Just because we’ve read it once doesn’t mean we have it mastered! Let’s read it again!
11. 1 Peter 4:7-11 Love in the end times
*When you think of love, what are some ways you have shown it to others?
*How have friends, family, neighbors, church, co-workers, even strangers, shown love to you?
*What are some basic reciprocal expectations when it comes to love?
*Does love ever disappoint?
*Have you ever had to love or be kind to someone you wouldn’t choose as a friend?
*What are some basic ways you can show love to your neighbors?
*Brainstorm a list of your neighbors, people you would rather do without, crusty relatives, you get the idea, and ask the Lord how He would direct you to love them.
Love is not always going to make sense. Sometimes it will feel great and other times it will feel like your heart was ripped out of your chest, squashed on the asphalt by a few semi-trucks passing by on their way to nowhere and then put back into your body. One thing that can make love richer in our lives is seeing that in our obedience to love others, even people we hardly know or really can’t stand, we are being used by God, our Heavenly Father who loves us, to show His love to others who may not get it yet. Love is the arch nemesis of hatred, envy, jealousy, greed. It’s a dirty word in the devil’s book. Love often is the last thing we feel like doing but as we pour it out, even though at times it is painful, we also are taught and trained by it. Even though love can hurt or be inconvenient, it is in loving others that we are able to learn more about the character of God. He didn’t choose who He died for…God loved the whole world and chose to send His Son, in love, for all of us. Loving our neighbors doesn’t mean we are expected to be BFF, in fact Proverbs talks about not setting foot too frequently in our neighbor’s home, but it does teach us a little bit about the Love that was poured out for us over two thousand years ago by a guy we’ve never even met face to face. It’s radical, but LOVE what we are called to.
God doesn’t ask us to be crucified for our friends, neighbors or enemies…He did that for us…but He does ask us to love them. Lord, please help me love and to love well.