Love Thy Neighbor

neighbors

The other morning while I was just waking up – you know, that sweet place between being fully awake and fully asleep, I was thinking about love. I was thinking about loving my neighbor and how sometimes it’s easier said than done. Yes, I do know the scripture actually says, Love your neighbor as you love yourself. But, we’ll save that “Yourself” part for another time.

I was pondering this and praying that God would give me a love for those who I seem to have a hard time loving on my own. Help me love even those who irritate me and make me twitch at the mere mention of their name. Help me love the (seemingly) unlovable ones.

After praying and pondering this, I had a sudden thought of actually falling in love with these people – my neighbors and others. Seriously, falling in love? But, the more I thought about it, the more it made perfect sense.

What better way to serve someone and demonstrate the kingdom at the same time. That is, without an agenda whatsoever.  People see agendas coming a mile away and there isn’t any real love in them when it comes to relationships like this. The end “game” is love, not another notch on your evangelistic belt. (I don’t have a belt, btw.)

For me, the Gospel is and should be preached by demonstrations of love and practical things that people need and can understand in their lives, more than by words preached at them. I find that when words are being used to preach the Gospel, it is for the Believing body. Not always, but this is what I see most often. It’s always pointless to point out what we think is wrong with someone, especially if we haven’t even taken the time to love well first. There is no fruit in that.

We throw the word “love” around all the time. Often when we use the word, it’s for things, to people. For instance:
I love coffee

I love bacon

I love these jeans

I love Sunday mornings

I love Christmas

We also use this word love when we think and talk about our friends and relationships – which is what I’m talking about here.

Can we take a moment and think about this thing called love? What is it really about?

When I met my husband on a blind date, oh so many years ago, I fell head over heels in love with him. My thoughts were always on him. What was he doing? Was he thinking about me? When would we get to be together again?

Things have changed only slightly these days. Instead of me being in a state of head over heels, – I am able to take my eyes and thoughts off of him so I can accomplish some things. (That is sometimes necessary for functionality!) But that is what love is all about. Falling in love with Paul is something that I choose to do every morning when I wake up. It’s like the “Groundhog Day” of love. I get to do it all over again but the difference is, I am full of love when I begin the day, not emptied out only to start from scratch.

I used the illustration of me and Paul about falling in love because it’s a perfect picture of what we are capable of as people: We can fall in love with those around us and we can do it every day.

This thing called love is really about choosing a place of humility. If we do that there will be no room for judgment or accusation for those who believe differently than us or act differently than we would in a given situation. We can love them because we give them honor from exactly where they are not someplace we think they should be.

 Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Love never ends. . .(1 Cor. 13:4-8)

Falling in love with our neighbors is where the rubber hits the road. Love is a fruit of the spirit and if you know anything about fruit, it doesn’t suddenly appear. Fruit is grown from seeds planted and tended over time. Like fruit we won’t excel in love always, but we can develop love, deep love over time.

We need to treat people like our most beloved and cherished friend. We need to take the time to listen because they have a story that will rock our world and it needs to be told. If we treat them like beloved friends, that is what they will become. Can we love well enough to listen and actually show that we love?

I believe it’s time to fall in love with those around us. I believe it’s time for us to go out as an army of love and conquer the neighbors around us. Then let’s go take the world!

I’m falling in love, all over again.

G

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