We've all heard it before. It's in the Bible as one of the greatest commandments.
"One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. "- Mark 12:28-31
Some "neighbors" are easy to love. We can admit it. We love the folks who think and look like us. We love the neighbor who waves and says "Hi" each time they see us in the yard. We love the person at the grocery who smiles and greats us warmly. We love those who worship the way we do and pray the way we do. We love those who we have made a part of our circles.
Some "neighbors" are more difficult love. It might be the neighbor who gives you the evil eye because they think your child is a bad influence on their children. The person on the other end of the phone who bemoans "It's not my department." The sour-faced and angry co-worker. The person on the corner holding a sign that says the world is ending on a specified date. The racist neighbor who is filled with hate. The person who belittles your faith and/or your place of worship.
Some "neighbors" are needing our love. The hungry and scared child living in poverty. The family facing foreclosure of their home. The elderly neighbor who has no-one that visits her in the nursing home. The list goes on and on. The abused neighbor, the sad and lonely neighbor, the lost and seeking neighbor, the uninsured neighbor, the worried neighbor...
I am sure you can come up with a lot more to add to this list. In fact, I want to invite you to do just that for Lent this year. Sit down and write your own Lenten Love MY "Neighbor" List. If you have children, invite them to add to a family list and make that list a part of your regular prayers this Lent. I would venture to say that the little ones will have some of the most profound entries for your list. No matter if it is a family list or your own personal list, keep this list with you all throughout Lent and add to it as the need arises. Consider taking the next step and find a way to be the love that neighbor needs. Depending on the "neighbor," we will show and be that love in different ways. If we believe and offer ourselves fully and humbly, I firmly trust that the Lord will present us with the opportunities to be and to show that love. Love is an action that we birth into fruition .
We just have to remember that authentic love doesn't pick apart or tear down others. Authentic love doesn't have to stop and be reminded that all of us hurt and need others. Love is unfailing, undeserved and unconditional. Love cares about the condition of the other over self.
There is one last category of people that needs our love. The "neighbor" that we have deemed to not deserve our love. Those that have caused great physical or spiritual harm to us or to those we love. Those that have done things that go beyond our human and moral understanding and comprehension. For there is an evil that seeps into some of God's children. An evil that twists the human soul and hides the light of the Holy Spirit from a person It is an evil that causes them to harm others in profound and deep ways. That is the most challenging love we are called to give.
I don't know about you guys, but my list is already very, very long.
This is not going to be easy. I have such a long way to go.
by Cyndi Marlow