This morning, our neighbors left these gifts on our front porch. They have a beautiful garden and raise bees. Every year they share their bounty with us. They are ideal neighbors, and we are grateful for the kindness they have extended in many different ways – everything from inviting us to church to occasionally taking care of our pets and allowing us to borrow tools. They truly epitomize the commandment, “Love thy neighbor” (Mark 12:31).
When Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” he wasn’t only referring to the people next door. He meant all people. The commandment is second in importance only behind “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Loving God means we must also love people. And what a challenge that can sometimes be!
Once, I loved others so effortlessly, but when I was bullied, I lost trust in people. As a result, I self-protected by isolating myself, often saying things like, “I love people, but I don’t like people,” “people suck,” “girls are mean,” and, “I love animals more than people.”
Have you ever found yourself saying the same kinds of things? From where do those thoughts stem? Do you desire to honor God in the highest through your thoughts and actions? I have heard these kinds of comments from many others who have also been hurt and bullied. I totally understand if it’s easier to converse with your dog or to wrap yourself in the walls of your quiet home than it is for you to deal with difficult people. Mean people are everywhere. It is Satan’s aim to use them to overwhelm our minds, separate us, harden our hearts, and doubt goodness in others. Many of us fall into his trap. That’s why we need to be reminded that there are also friendly, helpful people everywhere, and we can experience them when we set our eyes on “the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13).
Loving others isn’t always easy. It requires intentional choice, commitment, patience, effort, and forgiveness, and it is a reminder to work harder on growing our character than anyone else’s. Regardless of others’ callousness or kindness, when we strive to serve people how Jesus served people, when we value people as we desire to be valued, we honor him when we honor them. And although we are to love people without expecting anything in return, it’s nice how God shows us love is worth the work. For me, it often comes after I’ve stepped outside of my relational comforts, and this time, love circled back around and ended up on my front porch in the form of homegrown produce. It’s always uplifting to receive a message that tells us someone cares.
We reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). What seeds of love can you plant and share today?