This Biblical command is sometimes hard to follow. “Love thy neighbor” is easy when your neighbors are lovable. Not so much so when they’re unlovable.
Of course by “neighbor” the Bible means any human person, not just the people on your block. But those living close by are the ones you’re going to run into and have to deal with the most.
Depending on how you look at it, the street where I grew up was either comical or downright pathetic. We lived only half a block from two bars, and the couple next door worked at one of them. Amazingly, they used to drive to and from work, but considering that they consumed far too much of the product sold at their place of employment, maybe it’s a good thing it was just half a block. Unfortunately, if the husband was too drunk to get his back door open, he tended to answer nature’s call right outside my parents’ bedroom window.
Yup, not too lovable.
The guy who lived directly across the street from us was an exhibitionist. He didn’t bother my dad or brother, but he was all too happy to, um, “show off” to us girls. Fortunately, my older sister came up with the brilliant idea of pointing at him and laughing whenever he was too revealing. Unfortunately, if he noticed I was home alone, he would call me on the phone. Back then there was no such thing as caller ID, and if it had been somebody else and I hadn’t answered, I would have been in big trouble from my folks when they (as they inevitably would) found out. But I also couldn’t tell them what was going on with this guy since past experience had taught me that any time I was abused, my parents claimed I must have done something to incite it. Being abused was bad enough, but getting blamed for being a victim was worse.
Again, not a very lovable neighbor.
And then there was the teenage boy across the street who ended up in prison. He wanted to know what it was like to kill someone, so along with some buddies of his, he picked up a homeless man, drove him out to the middle of nowhere, and shot him dead. Just for kicks, mind you. What’s even more sad is that nobody in the neighborhood was surprised.
Definitely not lovable neighbors. How do you love people like those?
I sometimes have to remind myself that Jesus loves them so much that He suffered and died for them. They are the reason He stretched out His hands and allowed them to be nailed to the cross.
They are not the only reason.
I am the reason too.
G.K. Chesterton once said, “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies, probably because generally they are the same people.” Lord, help me to remember that I also am a sinner and sometimes not all that lovable.