Loving our neighbors

How can we love those around us, especially those who might be a source of frustration to us? For one family, an experience they had with new neighbors reminded them that the key to loving others is seeing and acknowledging the goodness – and godliness – inherent in everyone.

Loving others can sometimes feel like a tough task. There seems to be so much that tries to divide us. How can we find a deeper love for others that enables us to live in harmony and peace despite our differences?

I have found encouragement in this direction and a deeper spiritual perspective in the Bible. Christ Jesus highlighted the two great commandments – to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves (see Matthew 22:35–40). The first of these commandments can sometimes seem easier than the second one!

But I’m beginning to see that my love for God has to be expressed by my love for my neighbor, no matter who they are. Love has to be big enough to include everyone. As the Bible says: “If we say we love God and don’t love each other, we are liars. We cannot see God. So how can we love God, if we don’t love the people we can see?” (I John 4:20, Contemporary English Version). And Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, wrote: “We should measure our love for God by our love for man” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 12).

My husband and I had an experience that taught us a lot about what it means to love your neighbor. New neighbors had moved in above us, and we could hear their every little movement. At first we tried to communicate about the noise level, but it didn’t seem to resonate. My husband and I felt pretty resentful and longed for the peace and harmony we enjoyed before they moved in. After several weeks, however, we had an opportunity for a change in perspective.

My husband was leaving for the day, and as he tried to start the car, he realized that the car battery was dead. Our new neighbors noticed our need and came out to help, even though our previous interactions with them hadn’t been the most harmonious. They helped us try to jump the car, and when that didn’t work, they drove my husband to an auto store to get a new battery. They even helped us install it.

Overall, they spent more than an hour of their time on a Saturday morning helping us out, even with a relative in town visiting them. It was totally unexpected, and we were immensely grateful. When we expressed our profound gratitude, they replied that this is simply what neighbors do.

Well, you can imagine the change of heart we had after that. These neighbors expressed humility, unselfish service, generosity, and compassion during our time of need. Being on the receiving end of these qualities, qualities that have their source in God, transformed our thought, and helped us glimpse what had been true all along – the inherent spirituality and goodness of our neighbors. After all they, like all of us, were made in the image and likeness of God.

This experience has served as a reminder to us that we should always be looking for the good in those around us, because God’s goodness is reflected by everyone. That is all God ever knew about our neighbors, and through the Christly service they expressed, our eyes were opened to see more of their true light.

Even though the noise level hadn’t changed, we had a new spiritual view of our neighbors and our home. When we heard them walking around, we would think of them with love and kindness instead of grumbling over the disruption. Eventually they did get some rugs and furniture, which helped dampen the noise, for which we were grateful.

It was amazing how one unselfish act of service brought about a complete healing and transformation of our home life. Their neighborly love was an example to us!

We may not all have the opportunity to help neighbors fix their car, but we do have the opportunity to treat everyone with love and respect. Living Christ Jesus’ commandments becomes more natural when we start from the standpoint that we are each the blessed, spiritual children of God, filled with amazing capacities to love and do good. Seeing others from this spiritual perspective, despite our differences, supports healing and helps us live harmoniously with each other, without distrust or resentment.

I’m grateful for the opportunities we all have to break down barriers that would keep us from loving one another. As we strive to see everyone around us as a child of God, we will discern our and others’ spiritual nature more clearly and be able to respond in any situation with love. As children of one Spirit, we are each the loved and lovable expressions of God.

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