Photo by Matheus Bertelli

We are commanded to love our neighbor for the sake of peaceful coexistence. But why is it primarily difficult and almost impossible?

It’s interesting how loving thy neighbor has been emphasized several times in the Bible, even in a spiritual book by Tony Antonellis. It was even dubbed as “The Second Greatest Commandment.” So why does Jesus place so much value on us loving thy neighbor other than God?

You might have encountered many unpleasant people, whether rude customers, relatives, in-laws, friends, peers, colleagues, etc. At some point, they might have done things that hurt you, causing a rift in those relationships. What makes loving your neighbor, in this case, hard is that you see them more often on average. Therefore, keeping your emotions in might be challenging if the wounds they inflicted are deep.

However, we are commanded to love them regardless. But why?

What Loving Thy Neighbor Really Entails

A neighbor in the Bible is not just about someone who lives right down the street near your house. Not even the next-door apartment neighbor. They could be anyone close to you that you have some relationship or association.

To love thy neighbor is more than being selective towards the ones you like. It’s more about treating others the same way you want to be treated, and it’s the way God loves you.

You should think about how He wants you to be a part of His one big family, regardless of your flaws. God intends for us to love Him and live peacefully with others by loving them. And that shouldn’t cause us to be selective about who we treat, right? God loves us so much that despite our imperfections as humans, He wants to share His love. That should urge us to do the same for our neighbors.

How We Can Show Our Love to Our [Difficult] Neighbor

It’s unimaginable for us sometimes when we think about showing love to our neighbors, especially the difficult ones. However, that shouldn’t stop us from treating them the way God treats us. After all, Jesus stated,

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39, NIV)

So, if you think loving thy neighbor is impossible, do try these simple steps:

1. Pray for Them

Prayer has always been the ultimate solution for hearing God’s voice and asking for His provision and divine blessings. Furthermore, prayer also grants us the peace that we long for because we are in the holy presence of our Heavenly Father.

That is why when we feel like loving our neighbor is hard, we can always come forward to God. Bringing our concerns to Him will help us heal and not sin by bearing any grudges against our neighbor. In the Bible, Jesus even told us to pray for and bless those persecuting us. This connects us back to the fact that peaceful coexistence for the love of God includes praying for people we don’t like.

2. Watch Your Tongue

Our tongue is one of the most essential parts of our lives. Its power is perfectly summed up in Proverbs 18:21 (AMP):

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue. And those who love and indulge it will eat its fruit and bear the consequences of their words.”

Words can make or break a person’s life; rather than wielding them as a deadly weapon, they must be a tool to speak life. Anything from our mouths will significantly influence our neighbors’ lives. We also should care for our words, as we do about our environment and what we eat or wear.

What comes out of our mouths reflects our hearts’ deepest crevices. So, instead of gossiping or cursing at our neighbors, we should speak only love toward them because it ultimately springs back to us.

3. Positive and Godly Fellowship

Who we surround ourselves with also affects the way we treat others. Moreover, they do say that “Bad company corrupts good character.” So, to bless our difficult neighbors’ lives, we should start with who we’re being influenced by.

Our behaviors have many contributing factors, including the kind of people we’re around most of the time. If we have fellowship with people who have been loving, caring, and prayerful towards us, we can do the same to our difficult neighbors.

4. Don’t Give in and Let Go

Ask God to grant you the strength to forgive your enemies and persecutors. Holding onto resentment will only cause further suffering in your heart. Tell God to give you the courage to release any grudges or ill will against your enemies so you can ultimately be free from them.

Revenge is out of our hands, no matter how tempting it is. Such an act is not for us to take because it’s not a way to peacefully coexist with others. Loving thy neighbor should not come with hidden resentment that will become retaliation when triggered. God gives us enough grace to love our neighbor and release our negative burdens.

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