Loving your neighbor can really be impossible
No one has escaped a hard knock from a hard person.
In Ezekiel 12:2, the prophet tells us what should not surprise us: rebellious people have ears that can’t hear, eyes that can’t see, and hearts that can’t understand.
I know a man who passes his neighbor’s house every day. When this neighbor is outside, there is not that country neighbor wave of the hand, nod of the head, or even a slight smile exchange. It’s the 180-degree opposite of this. This neighbor scowls if he even looks up at all.
Christians, we feel for this broken soul. We do. It breaks us as it breaks him. Something hurts him so deeply. It forces him to stay in this place of profound sorrow fueled by a deep anger that may or may not be expressed easily.
This isn’t God. This isn’t love.
God did not intend for this community breakdown. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says that we are to lift each other up. There’s no qualifier on this. Simply put, we are to lift each other up. The happy neighbor. The miserable neighbor. The checkout clerk at the grocery store. The mail carrier. The prisoner. The one whose religious affiliation is SO not yours. Then there’s the one whose views on
America policies make you a little hotheaded and summer temperatures are not yet here.
Now here’s a reality we’ve all experienced. We’ve tried. We have earnestly, openly, optimistically tried to love our neighbor, our kid’s teacher, the mean machine in church who, as a pastime, clips people at their knees. There may have been some glimmer of hope for restoration or peace at one time, but all in all, the scene is far from promising.
What do you do then?
I don’t think we should look at the individual when we get to this point. I think we should look at ourselves. That’s not a pass to be selfish or self-focused; it’s an opening to reflect on how we are seeing this person. They are obviously hard. If you’re honest and not angry at the fact that they are angry, you notice there is something hard in you. You know why there is something hard—this hurts!
Sometimes loving our neighbor means we have to wait. This isn’t on our timetable. It is on God’s. What I’ve said is not an excuse to walk away from care; it is the opportunity to pray and wait.
Easy answer? No, I did not give you one. The person in pain has to learn something. This may take a very, very long time. Sadly, it may take a lifetime.
We have something to learn, too. We need God. Loving our quarrelsome, problematic, or all our miserable neighbor without God’s guidance and direction would be impossible.
This blog first appeared in The Susquehanna Independent on June 6, 2018.