In A Neighborly Way

The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.’ Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart … Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” – Leviticus 19:1-2,17-18

Did you lose a friend as a result of the 2016 U.S. presidential election? If you did, you’re not alone. According to a recent poll, one out of every fourteen Americans lost a friend in 2016 because of their support for one or the other of the presidential candidates.

Disagreement over politics may seem like a flimsy reason for ending a friendship, even if that disagreement is particularly pointed. But that is where much of our culture seems to be right now. Disagreement often is interpreted as hatred. And instead of engaging in a calm discussion with those who hold different opinions, too often people immediately resort to insults, derision, and exclusion.

We may look at this, shake our heads, and think, “I can’t believe that people actually treat each other that way!” But then we remember that neighbor who borrowed our hedge trimmer and it just didn’t work quite right when he returned it. “See if I ever let him borrow one of my tools again!” we think. And then there’s that person who sits on the school board with us who just can’t seem to understand that the policy we proposed would be best for the school. “I can’t believe people can be so stubborn,” we lament. And then there’s that coworker who totally botched a project, yet somehow we got blamed for his failure. “Just wait until he sees how miserable I can make things for him!” we console ourselves.

The truth is that it’s not just everyone else who has a problem showing love to their neighbor. We struggle with that too. And it does us no good to try to justify ourselves by saying, “At least I’m not as bad as some other people.” God expects us to be holy – perfect – just as he is holy. And anything less than perfect love for our neighbor simply does not meet God’s standard.

Thankfully, our holy God has not left us without hope. Although we are not holy, God has declared us holy through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son Jesus. In Jesus, all our failures to love our neighbor as ourselves have been removed from our record. And in their place we have Jesus’ perfect love of neighbor credited to us. In addition, God works in our hearts the desire and the ability to forgive our neighbor when we are wronged, to let go of our grudges, and to forgo all thoughts of revenge. With God’s own strength, we as God’s people truly can love our neighbor as ourselves.

Prayer: Holy Father, fill me with your strength that I may love my neighbor as you have loved me. Amen.

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