Sometimes loving our neighbor means loving someone the world finds unlovable.
Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon (creative commons)
Ah February. The month of love. The time of the year where we gorge ourselves on chocolate and see red everywhere. Literally, red is everywhere. Well, right now I’m seeing white everywhere, because at the time of writing we’re in the middle of our second snow storm of 2014 here in Georgia. Seriously, what’s up with all the snow?
Anyway, I digress. February is certainly a month where love is the theme everywhere. Valentines day has come and gone by now and you probably expressed your love to the people in your life you care about. Maybe you bought a couple cards or candy for someone you care about. Maybe you surprised your kids with a special treat. Or maybe you’re not really into the whole Valentine’s Day thing, but you couldn't help but think about a couple people in your life whom you care about.
It’s not always easy to love the people God places in our lives, but most of us surround ourselves with people we generally like and love. We also tend to spend time with people who are pretty similar to us. But many of us don’t take the time to love the unlovable.
One of my favorite author/speakers, Jen Hatmaker, recently shared a story at a conference about a neighbor she ignored. She told us how she and her husband had griped about this woman’s unkempt house and messy yard. When she began to pray about really being the hands and feet of Jesus around the world, she felt the Holy Spirit remind her of her neighbor. Her elderly, widow neighbor who was lonely and depressed with a pastor’s family next door who only complained about her messy lawn. Jen said that she and her husband were so convicted that he cut the neighbor’s grass every day for the remainder of the time they lived in that house, crying each time he pulled out the lawn mower.
As she shared that story I felt tears spring to my eyes. I wondered about the ‘unlovable’ people I pass on a regular basis. That difficult person at work who may just be lonely and discouraged. The homeless people in Woodruff park I pass by on my way to lunch sometimes. The grumpy neighbors who don’t make eye contact. The difficult clients I write off as belligerent. I’m sure we all have people in our lives and people who pass through our lives briefly that we write off as not worth our time. We may not verbally acknowledge that they aren’t worth our time, but actions speak louder than words.
The problem with this attitude is that Jesus told us that everyone we encounter is our neighbor. He reminded us of that in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). And my childhood pastor said once “You become a neighbor when you meet a need” (Johnny Hunt). During February and throughout the entire year, we have opportunities to be true neighbors to the people around us. We have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the people who cross our paths. My prayer for myself this month is that I will be intentional and aware of the opportunities God puts in my path.
Who are the ‘unlovable’ people that God has put in your life? How can you be a neighbor to the people who cross your path?
Emily Laney is a social worker, educator and justice seeker. She has worked with vulnerable populations in the United States and abroad and loves to help startup nonprofits reach their goals. She is a Passion City Church door holder and leads a team of abolitionists at Not for Sale Georgia. She loves her husband Brent and their rescue pup Biscuit. Sunsets and Sushi make her happy.
You can connect with Emily on twitter @emilylaney or on her blog www.emilylaney.com