I grew up watching the "Mister Rogers" tv show, where he was friendly with all his neighbors. Mister Rogers was always kind and taught us to love our neighbors, no matter how strange they were- like Lady Elaine (I think that was her name). She scared me! It is easy to love some people. Others, not so much. But, God never said it was going to be easy. But, we don't really want to work that hard, do we? We would rather worry about who is not loving us enough. So, we find excuses not to love others. We find reasons that people are not worthy of our love.
It reminds me of the parable of "The Good Samaritan". The teacher of the law in this parable obviously knew the law. He could quote it very well: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself." But, then he was quick to challenge Jesus with, "Who is my neighbor?" He thought he might be able to get out of loving some of those people he didn't want to love. Maybe Jesus would give him a break since he could spout off the scripture.
Remember the scripture from Romans 8:10 that I shared with you on Sunday? “For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.” I talked about how we need both the lips and the heart working together. This law teacher was good at using his lips, but the heart was not plugged in to the lips. I'm sure we can all relate to that.
Jesus answers the teacher's question with a parable, which he loved to do. I'm sure it drove the religious leaders of his day insane! Especially since he was usually trying to teach them a lesson. The moral of this story is that being a neighbor is having love and mercy for anyone you happen to pass by throughout your day.
We don't have to go out and find people to love; they are already there. Love the people you come in contact with- at the grocery store, getting your mail, phone calls, emails, posts on social media, your spouse, your children, ....You get the idea. These are all our neighbors.
Now, remember, this love comes from the heart, not just the lips. Telling everyone you love them, then talking about them behind their back or treating them like they are lesser than you is NOT love from the heart. It is empty and meaningless. It makes you untrustworthy and a hypocrite. Mister Rogers didn't act nice to everyone to their face, then come back, take his sweater and his shoes off and talk about everything he hates about his neighbors. He didn't try to make himself better than everyone he met. He didn't tell his neighbors gossip about each other to pit them against each other. (And, yes, I know he is a fictional character.)
Do we say we love people and try to convince ourselves we are spreading the love of Christ? Are we just trying to appear to be a good person? Are we giving lip-service or are we loving with our heart, selflessly, not selfishly. Go back to the greatest commandment and check yourself. Are you loving God with ALL your heart, soul, mind, and strength AND loving your neighbor as you think you deserve love?
It's always good to start with prayer. Talk to God and tell him what you love about him. Thank him for what he has and is doing for you. Focus on his sacrificial love for you. How does he show his love? Oh, yeah, and don't forget that he sacrificed his son to die on the cross for you. Could you do that? Thank God for the people in your life and what a blessing they are to you. Ask God to forgive you for not loving him and others and to help you see through eyes of love for others more than self.