Have you ever had a neighbor or a person in your life that is tough to love? You know God doesn’t want you at odds with that person, but you can’t seem to find solid footing where you can interact without one of you being upset or offended. No matter how hard you try, loving that person becomes the hardest thing you have to do as Christian.
I have one of those people in my life. I’ve struggled so much with this issue. I’ve tried reasoning over our differences. Doesn’t help. I’ve tried being friendly to little success. I pray about this person, and our issues, and don’t see any relief in the near future.
“For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Romans 13: 9-10 (ESV)
I recently spent a week studying these two verses and pondering their meaning—with an emphasis on what God was saying to me about the person in my life that is so difficult to get along with. I realized that I don’t need to stand back and let a neighbor harm me, but I also must not seek to hurt anyone for any reason.
I also thought long and hard about who is my neighbor. Does this mean the people sitting beside me at church or those whose property borders mine? Jesus prayed the following:
“… I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” John 17:9 (ESV)
This leads me to believe my neighbor is the person or people God brings within my sphere of influence or connection My family, the people at church, neighbors—even the grumpy, mean-spirited ones—even those I come in contact with for a few minutes. All of those within my reach are my neighbors and worthy of God’s love and thus, my love. God brings them to me for a purpose and not always for those warm fuzzy feelings. Sometimes, He wants me to stretch and grow in the ways I show love.
I know God never seeks to wrong someone or get revenge for His own benefit. Likewise, when that person within my sphere hurts me, I am still called to love. I must forgive and live out the love of God, to show even in those difficult times that God is love. He Who first loved me, calls me to be like Him.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” I Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)