Love your neighbors.
Pray for enemies.
All through the Bible, I see thoughts on relationships and how we interact with each other. If we never had problems in these areas, the words of caution and admonition wouldn't be there. But, being humans, we do err. Sadly, sometimes.
Have you ever had a problem with someone? If you have . . .
I shouldn't say "if". All of us have had a problem or two (or a bunch) relating to someone. Perhaps, a friend said something stupid. A coworker caused trouble (sometimes life-changing problems). A relative hurt us, accidentally or on purpose. Or there's that "irregular person" in our lives. The one we struggle to get along with on a weekly, or even daily, basis.
Love means we have to forgive and be kind—even if.
Even if what? Even if we struggle to get along.
If we don't like someone, (that sounds awful, doesn't it?) what are we going to do with Jesus' words to love our neighbors? First, I'd better pray for him (and me too). With the Holy Spirit inside, He's the one loving through me. Love begets love. True love goes beyond natural feelings. It's a spiritual happening based on the change God is doing. He can do such a work that we don't even understand why we're suddenly feeling more loving toward that person.
There's an exercise I like to do to also change how I'm thinking about someone. "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2) I need to change opinions about the person who's annoying me. Yes, I must confess, I'm sharing from experience, but I won't go into detail. Instead . . .
Let's say Jan and Clyde moved in next door with two teenage sons. Wild boys, it seems. Ever since then, the neighborhood has been different. So much so, you're considering moving. Parties in the yard until all hours. Loud music. Fireworks. Things have been stolen. Suspicions are high. You've talked with Clyde, but he's oblivious. Jan is away, working, most of the time. The boys broke your front window with a football yesterday. Their dog's been doing his number two on your lawn. Get the picture?
Where does love fit in?
Love does more than stew over the problem, although our nature wants to do that. Love is more than ignoring the noise. (Although, earplugs might help.) Love looks beyond the physical annoyances and realizes the person next door, his eternity, matters more than all our stuff, all our preferences, all our comfort. Pride is usually the bad guy in these situations, but true love kicks pride out of the picture, makes us more humble, caring, kinder, thoughtful, etc. It gets us thinking differently.
Here's something that has helped me. I turn to the love chapter, I Corinthians 13, and if you're like me, this chapter makes you squirm in your chair over how you've been thinking about Jan and Clyde. In the midst of my discomfort, I take this powerful section in Scripture a step deeper. I insert Jan's and Clyde's names following the love actions. When I do this (and sometimes redo it) it radically transforms how I'm thinking about my irregular person.
- "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love" for Clyde and Jan's sons, "I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal."
- "If I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love" for Clyde, "I am nothing."
- "Love" for Jan "is patient, love" for Clyde "is kind."
- "It (love) is not rude" toward Jan.
- "Love" for my next door neighbors "never fails."
In fact, the verse goes on to state if I don't have love for these folks . . . prophecies will cease, tongues will be stilled, knowledge will pass away. Wow. Not loving has huge consequences. After all, "God is love." He's in us. Love is in us. How can we not love?
Love from the heart is sincere, it's able to love enemies, it's able to put our neighbor's needs before our own. Love does remarkable things in the face of adversity.
To tap into that mindset, the next time anger—or hate—rises up inside over a friend's wrongdoing, a frustrating neighbor, or a spouse you aren't getting along with, after you've prayed for him, insert the person's name into Corinthians 13. It will change something inside of you. I know it did for me.
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love" for Jan and Clyde.