How do you love a “neighbor” who is unlovable?

On Sunday we heard from the Apostle Paul (talking plain enough to understand for a change)

++from Sunday 9/4: Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.  Romans 8:9-10

As a way to extend the Sunday (9/4) lesson this week I invite you to try this “spiritual exercise” during the “other 6 days.”

  1. Go through the newspaper, or magazines you have lying around, photo albums, internet images whatever you have or can find and. . .
  2. . . . PICTURE (at least) 3 “NEIGHBORS” YOU HAVE DIFFICULTY LOVING. Folks or groups of folks you may even find “unlovable” period.
  3. Post the images someplace you can find so that you can see them every day, maybe even in a place you see them throughout the day.
  4. Day be day read the passage(s), that grab your attention, look at the images you have clipped, speak a short prayer in response. (See below)
  5. Write down (or not) your prayer (or anything else) as the Spirit leads you. Bring your insights (even your prayers) with you on 9/11 (to church) or share them here on our blog.

One way to begin to love your neighbor (especially the neighbor you find unlovable) is to take that neighbor with you into your prayer time with God (the exercise I have just suggested).

Complain to God (if you must, or if it just “feels” good to complain). Express your exasperation with this neighbor, detail the many shortcomings you have discovered with this neighbor, God is a good listener. Perhaps, if you listen closely, you’ll be able to hear the complaints about you made by your neighbor. Perhaps, even if you don’t want to hear it, you’ll hear the detailing to God of your shortcomings made by this neighbor you have brought with you. The two of you, or the group of you, sitting with God for a spell; sitting with the same God who loves you all equally (see Matthew 5:43ff below) — it promises to be quite an experience. And, yes, I’m doing this all week myself. More later.

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++You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:18

++“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48

+ + [The lawyer asked] “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 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.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

+ + But wanting to justify himself, [the lawyer] asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers . . . .  Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The Parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37

Author: Daniel Rondeau

I am a husband and father and an Episcopal Priest (now retired) in the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego.

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