Love Your Neighbor

"Love your neighbor as yourself" is easy to preach.  It's a thread that holds the entire Bible together.  You can read versions of it throughout, including these direct references: Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:39, Romans 13:19, James 2:8.  Other religions have a similar teaching.  It is a timeless message about how we're to treat others and it's returned to time and again because takes practice.

When something is difficult to do, we need to grow into it - we crawl before we walk.  Here are a few ideas about how to grow into loving our neighbors:

  1. Love yourself better - if we're not feeling good about who we are as children of God, it's hard to feel good about who someone else is as God's child.  If you are dealing with self-loathing, work on that as a first step toward not resenting or disrespecting others.
  2. Love God more actively - prayer, scripture, meditation, and some music can put us on more solid, even more joyful ground, which helps center us before engaging with others.
  3. Give your neighbor a fresh start - that obnoxious tirade or poor decision or annoying habit isn't all there is to your neighbor.  Assume that of him and try to find out what else is in there.
  4. Do loving acts - often actions lead to thoughts and feelings.  If we wait until we feel like doing something good, we will move more slowly than if we do something good, regardless of how we feel.  Bonus points if we do something good for those who have wronged us (Romans 12:19-21).  Remember, the teaching isn't to like your neighbor as yourself - a loving act may well precede liking someone.
  5. Look for successes - this is incremental improvement.  Don't make your goal so high ("I'm going to turn my frustrating neighbor into my new best friend") that everything feels like a failure ("All I did was show interest in her challenging situation").  What is something you can do this week that will be in the direction of loving your neighbor?

You probably have additional ideas.  Use those, too.  Just keep pursuing this core teaching of our faith because to love your neighbor is to accomplish the Law.