Loving our neighbor can sometimes be difficult. There are times when, it seems, that no matter what we do, there is tension and issues that can disrupt a relationship and cause dissension. Leviticus 19:18 tells us, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.” (NASB) Jesus also dealt with this issue. A lawyer had come to Jesus and asked Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and Prophets.’” (Matthew 22:36-40 NASB 1995)
Who is our neighbor? Anyone with whom we must interact. That could literally mean our next-door neighbor or a family member. It could even include a total stranger! God told the Israelites that they were not to hold grudges or take vengeance against anyone. That instruction carried over into the New Testament also. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.’” (Romans 12:19 KJV) So how do we avoid taking vengeance or holding a grudge? I believe the key is the very first sentence Jesus spoke to the lawyer. Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. In putting God first and loving Him with everything within us, we receive His love in us and that helps us to love others.
Then, Jesus says we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. For some, that is extremely difficult. They walk through life with a poor self-image, they see nothing about themselves that is worthy of love, all the while not realizing that God loves them just the way they are and that He calls them precious and honored. “Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life.” (Isaiah 43:4 NIV) When we love ourselves, we are also able to love others. My husband tells me this constantly. I have a little bit of a self-esteem issue myself. He is so quick to remind me that I am worthy of love. Not only does he love me, but God loves me much more than my husband.
I have a wonderful marriage, but sometimes my husband and I get into arguments and we must remember what God’s law says. We are not to take vengeance or hold grudges. Our words must be measured, for they can inflict damage. (Proverbs 18:21) I must be so careful, because I am so quick to just say whatever comes out of my mouth, and it isn’t always nice. It’s an area of my life that I am working on, trying to be more aware of, and going to God constantly for help. I must remember that my husband is my “neighbor,” and I must love him like God does, and like I love myself. I am to take care of him just as I take care of myself. I am to treat him as I would want to be treated.
When we have issues with others who have hurt us, our first step should be to go to God with it and let Him deal with it. Let Him be the one to exact vengeance if it is required. Our job is to love that person no matter what happens. Our job is also to forgive. When we remember how much God has forgiven us, we have no choice but to forgive those who have hurt us, spoken evil against us, or just ignored us.
When we deal with others, we must be Christ-like in our attitudes and actions. We are to love our neighbor because this is what God wants of us. As we go through our day, let’s be aware of how we love our neighbor. Are we kind, do we go out of our way to help them, do we treat them as we want to be treated? If not, we need to change our attitudes and actions, go to God, ask for forgiveness and endeavor to love them like God does.