Do you love your neighbor?

IF anyone had asked me a few years ago, ``Do you love your neighbor?'' I probably would have said, ``Yes, but she doesn't like me.'' We had neighbors who would fight with each other and in general cause havoc in this rather quiet neighborhood. Just as I was congratulating myself on how well I got along with them, our relationship deteriorated. Our cat had a harness that kept her in our side yard. Eventually she was neutered and learned to stay home without the harness. But the neighbor didn't like this rein on the cat. She felt we were restricting its freedom, and she screamed at me from her yard about the matter. I impulsively came out and told her to be quiet. I instantly regretted it. In fact, I regretted it for five years, because she never spoke to me after that. This troubled me, and I prayed about it after several overtures on my part to reestablish communication had been rebuffed. She had told me, during a period when she was confiding in me, that her relatives had shunned her as a teen, and never talked to her, because they didn't like her mother. She had said she hated this, but apparently she also did it to others to punish them. My prayer was ``Love thy neighbour as thyself.'' 1 Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, ``My weary hope tries to realize that happy day, when man shall recognize the Science of Christ and love his neighbor as himself,--when he shall realize God's omnipotence and the healing power of the divine Love in what it has done and is doing for mankind.'' 2 As I prayed about this further in the light of Christian Science, several thoughts came. I saw that if I really loved her as myself, I had to love her as much as myself. This meant identifying her as the perfect image of God, Love. Her true selfhood as well as mine was the spiritual manifestation of a perfect God. Therefore she had the God-given intelligence to think and act according to God's direction. The hatred and revenge she was expressing were not characteristics of the real man of God's creation. I knew that in truth we had the same Mind, God, which is Love. Other neighbors were having problems with this family, and some even moved away, citing these individuals as part of their reason. I had to resist the temptation to gossip and agree with their assessments. When the neighbors on the other side of us became embroiled in a dispute with these people about a shared alleyway they had peacefully used for twenty-five years, we tried not to get involved. But one evening I went outside to find this other neighbor pacing the sidewalk in front of our house. That e vening I had been praying to see clearly the oneness of Mind. I walked with her, sharing several healing ideas on peace that had come through prayer. She was grateful for this sharing, and eventually reestablished communication, settling the dispute. Even they, however, moved after that. Still my neighbor did not talk to me. I knew that in Christ there was no condemnation, no past mistakes that could haunt the present sense of God's omnipotence and ever-presence. Good was all God had ever known and all we could know. My inner reactions to the vindictiveness melted away. This verse was especially helpful: ``There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.'' 3 We moved after five years to larger quarters, but my former neighbor and I still did not speak when we saw each other at town functions. One day I saw her in a department store where I was shopping for baby items, as I was due to have another child. She hadn't seen me yet, and I remembered the story of Jacob's meeting with his brother Esau, whose parental blessing and inheritance he had stolen. Fearful, after many years, Jacob wanted to recompense his brother, but Esau said, ``I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself.'' Jacob said, ``Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me.'' 4 Thinking of my neighbor, I endeavored to see her ``face,'' her nature as the expression of God. In this light I saw that she could only be pleased with me. I went toward her expectantly, ready to speak. She saw me and spoke first. ``Well,'' she laughed, referring to my very expectant condition, ``I'm glad it isn't me!'' We both laughed, and after that we always spoke. I was grateful. I could finally honestly say that I loved my neighbor and she loved me. 1 Matthew 19:19. 2 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 55. 3 Romans 8:1. 4 Genesis 33:9, 10.

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