Loving an Unlovable Neighbor
We all know that person we secretly try to avoid, the one that seems to grate on our last nerve. As a Christ follower, the Bible commands us to love everyone, but some people challenge our ability to walk out that command.
However, if Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39), He surely provides a way to do so. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
I learned this valuable lesson several years ago.
Someone in my life proved very difficult to love and we interacted a few times each week, so I could not avoid the relationship. God convicted me regarding my heart attitude toward this person. I asked God to help me love this person as I struggled to do so in my own strength. In an amazingly short period of time, God changed my heart. I developed a deep, unconditional love for this person.
Often in contentious relationships, we pray for God to change the other person. However, most often the change occurs in us. God cleans the lens through which we view the situation, and our clouded viewpoint clears to see things from His perspective. God may still work in the other person; however, we will not be held responsible for their response, but only our own.
As we near Valentine’s Day, most people focus on romantic love; however, my challenge moves me to practice the unconditional love of I Corinthians 13. This proves especially challenging in the divisive culture we experience today. Friendships and family ties strain and even break as disagreements escalate. We must remember agreement or disagreement on issues does not translate to love or hate.
If we discuss a theological topic and stand on different sides of the debate, we still love each other. If you voted for a different candidate than me, we still love one another. If we see a social media post that hurts or offends, we still love one another.
I would challenge us in the coming days to walk out unconditional love in this way – when someone hurts or offends us, we pray for that person. Pray that:
1. We understand the individual or their viewpoint better (this doesn’t mean you must agree with them)
2. If they walk in sin, God convicts them
3. If we view things through a clouded lens, God clears our view
4. God reveals a way for us to demonstrate love to the individual
Secondly, as part of this challenge, pray over our social media posts before hitting the send button. Ask ourselves these questions:
1. Would this hurt the heart of God knowing I posted this?
2. Does this edify and encourage others?
3. Does this focus on the things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8)?
No one I know changed their mind on an issue based on a social media post. However, everyone I know experienced anger or hurt over another’s post at some point. If I post something about a topic that proves divisive to many, I change no one’s perspective on the issue, but run the risk of alienating or hurting others. That demonstrates selfishness instead of unconditional love.
We all hold opinions and should voice them when necessary. However, the framework of social media breeds divisiveness much more often than understanding. I encourage us to pray before placing our words in that spotlight. We carry a responsibility to speak God’s Truth with love. I pray we take that responsibility seriously as we demonstrate the love of Christ to a very hurting world.