When we bought the place, the next door neighbors were friends. Literally. It’s not quite how their last name was spelled, but it was pronounced FRIEND. They were kind and laughed easily and helped us split wood and played cards with us. He was a World War 2 veteran. We loved them.
But last year, they sold their camp to new folks.
We welcomed our new neighbors. We were friendly. We approached this new relationship as if they, too, would be our friends. Instead, it felt like they approached us as the enemy. It appeared they were just looking to be disagreeable, that they’d made assumptions about us that just weren’t true. It never occurred to us that it could all go south so quickly.
They did not intervene when their dogs stood on our dock and barked at us while we swam. There were strong statements about lot lines and boundaries. There were tantrums and hurtful words that left us stunned and taking two steps back.
It was a tough summer. I did NOT want to be kind.
But as I prayed, I was challenged by Matthew 5:44-48.
“If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?”We are called to be different from everyone else. We are called to love our neighbors, and we are called to love our enemies. So what if our neighbors are acting like an enemy? Maybe we’re called to love them twice as much.
“In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.”If I’m going to be like Jesus, I need to love those who don’t love me. I need to ask God for a double measure of patience and kindness. I need to work twice as hard to not be rude. I shouldn’t keep a list of the offenses. I should love them because Jesus loves them.
Amy Lively says, “Girlfriends, we represent Jesus until He comes again! Does this terrify you as it does me? Just when I’m not sure I can measure up, the Holy Spirit whispers, ‘I’m right here. Trust me.’ When Jesus has disappeared from your neighbor’s view, He will use you to help her find Him again. He will use your arms to strengthen her. He will use your words to calm her. He will use your home to comfort her.”
This summer, I have a new attitude and a new God-given love for my neighbors – even when it’s hard.