We have all heard the verse where Christ says we should love our neighbor as ourselves. This weekend, that really struck me. I started to think, who would qualify as my neighbor? The people next door? Yes. The people living in our town? Yes. The people living in our state? Yes. How about people in the U.S.? Yes. And all over the world? Yes. Ok, so some tougher questions - what about the person at work that gets on your nerves? Yes. And how about that family member that is just so hard to love? Yes!
So we have defined who my neighbor is - everyone but me! But what exactly does loving them like myself mean? When I have a disagreement with someone I care about, am I loving them as myself? What about if we really disagree on major issues? Does it mean I have to let their side "win" so to speak? No, I don't think that would be true. Does it mean that no matter how many times I am hurt by someone, that I should continue to strive to build that relationship? Probably. But how do you do this, knowing that they will probably hurt you down the road again by saying something behind your back, manipulating those around you, or turning their back on you? I don't really have the answers. But now that I think of it, I haven't been a very good "neighbor" myself. I am probably not that easy to love when I think I am right (which now that I think about it, is most of the time). I am probably not easy to show compassion towards when I am focused on the challenges of my life, and don't take time to listen to others. In fact, others may put me on their list of difficult people to love. OUCH!
If I faced the judgment that the Bible talks about at the end of the age, when God separates the wheat from the chaff, how much of my life would "burn" with the chaff? I am starting to think it will be more than I think. My compassion for others should be obvious. It should be overflowing. That means it spills into others lives.
I wouldn't use those descriptions to talk about my life right now. I think this is an area God must be telling me I need to work on. No, I struggle to love some people, and get frustrated when they don't respond the way I want them to. I avoid others that I find difficult to love - people whose lives are so different from my own, that it makes me uncomfortable just trying to come up with something to say. So if the very nature of God calls us to love one another, then whose nature is it that calls us to be an adversary? I hesitate to answer Satan, but let's call him who he really is. And that would be someone I want nothing to do with. So Lord, give me eyes to see others they way that you see them. To find value in everyone because they are your creation, and to give each person I encounter a glimpse of your glorified light through me.
What a daunting task, accomplished only by resting in God's grace, which is exactly what I struggle with most of the time. Rest. Resting in God's grace. It sounds so easy, so why do I struggle with this? Why do I continue to try to work towards "achieving" those virtues the Bible speaks of, instead of resting in Christ and letting the Holy Spirit do the work? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, humility, - the fruit of the Spirit is within me, not a target to be reached! It can only be revealed when the fruit of humanity is laid aside - strife, ambition, pain, animosity, mistrust, slander, selfishness, etc. Lord, as I learn to lay these down, fill these empty spaces with the fruit of your everlasting spirit. Help them to abound in me so that they overflow into others lives. Help me to love my neighbor as myself. Teach me to know what this means, and to be the person you have called me and other believers to be.
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” ~ John 13:34
“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." ~ John 13:35
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” ~ Romans 12:10
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.” ~ Romans 13:8
“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” ~ Galatians 5:13
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” ~ Ephesians 4:2
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” ~ Hebrews 10:24
“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.” ~ 1 Peter 1:22
"Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and be humble" ~ 1 Peter 3:8