Do I Have To Love My Neighbor If He…
There are times when faith becomes disarmingly uncomfortable. Moments when you aren’t sure what the answer is but you know you’ll be digging deep to find it. Lately, I’ve been challenged about the whole “Love your neighbor” command.
It is sprinkled throughout Scripture (Mt. 22:36-40, Mark 12:31). Some of the most influential Christians are known by their love. Not influential in the business or political sense, but influential that when they open their mouth, people actually know that they care.
Loving your neighbor is a pretty big deal to God. So why isn’t it to me?
Most of my life, I’ve been busy rushing around to meet other people’s neighbors. Sign up for a ministry here, teach a workshop there, volunteer to help out across the metro.
The truth is, I’d rather live my happy little self-contained life, helping at a ministry across town, earning accolades for my good deeds and then ducking in back in my house before I have to say hello to the annoying boy next door.
Loving strangers is easy. Loving your neighbor? Not so much.
Neighbors know when you forget to take out the trash. They know you aren’t as put-together as you’d like to be or you’d like the world to believe you to be. They know when the grass in the front lawn is a little too rakish for the neighborhood. There really isn’t any pretending with neighbors.
It’s easy to love the ones who help you with your car, make small talk every once in awhile, and have that old school sense of being a neighbor. They don’t butt into your business but they’ll help you if you need it.
The others aren’t so easy.
The little ones will wait until you pull up on your driveway, see that you are on the phone, wait until you are engrossed in a conversation and then throw themselves against your window to make you scream like a little girl. Not like that’s ever happened to me…this month.
Some of them will ring your doorbell at 11 PM to ask if they can watch a movie with you, talk about life, and see if you have any spare food you wouldn’t mind donating to the noble cause of their stomach. They might follow you to the pool and yell for you to let them in. They might surprise you by sneaking into your backyard and tearing out a section of your fence in order to “help” you and your landlord.
I’ve been getting pretty annoyed.
That’s when I keep remembering the “love your neighbor” thing. And I hate it.
What’s worse is it seems every time I pray about it, the stupid doorbell rings.
I like to pretend Jesus said, Love your neighbor unless -
he’s a druggie
he’s a peeping tom
he’s a terrorist
he’s a thief
he’s a pedophile
he’s a playboy
he’s a jerk
he’s an illegal immigrant
he’s a bank robber
he’s a liar
he’s a murderer
he’s a law breaker
he’s a tweaked out meth-head
he’s a high school dropout
he’s a member of the opposite political party
he has mental issues
he has a sexual preference than you are uncomfortable with
he has too many loud parties that seep late into the night
he has a drinking problem
he has dated and dumped half of my friends
he has a sports addiction
he has anger issues
he has overzealous religious friends
he has a criminal record
he has a habit of forgetting to cut the grass
he has a bad sense of fashion
he has the cops over at least twice a week
he has an ugly car
he steals your newspaper
he doesn’t recycle
he is a super conservative
he’s a flaming liberal
he doesn’t know what he believes
he’s different from you
The problem is, the last time I checked, Jesus didn’t add any qualifiers after the statement, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
What do you think? How do you love your neighbors? Do you even know your neighbors?
Photo cc by pjbaldes on flickr.