Love Thy Neighbor

Whoever said “religion is for the weak” had no clue. Love thy neighbor as thyself, one of the two  great commandments for Christians — have you considered how hard that is?  

It’s easy to feel the surge of road rage at some idiot on the highway; so much harder to hope that they make it wherever they’re going safely, with no casualties and the grief that follows. Love thy neighbor.  I want to get where I’m going safely, too. 

It’s easy to feel righteous indignation at the maskless stranger in the supermarket, whose idea of social distancing is measured in inches rather than feet.  So much harder to hope that she finds sources to change her misguided conclusions that masks don’t work, or that they’re a bad idea. Love thy neighbor. I want to change my misguided ideas, too.

It’s easy to feel outrage by what They are doing, whoever They are. It’s easy to condemn Them, deride Them in memes, and agree with your friends that They are Not To Be Trusted.  How can you possibly love Those People?  

Well, I am one of those Not To Be Trusted people, to somebody.  Am I really supposed to love the ones who labelled me as Them? Come to think of it, my opinion of Them isn’t exactly charitable. 

For “Those People”, I have to start sideways.  I hope Their children have happy lives, and pick up their parents’ better traits, and not their faults. Yes, I want that for my kid, too. Then I inch a little closer: I hope the wall around “Them” becomes more porous, allowing Those People to be seen as the complex humans that we all are, and not just simplistic caricatures.  Yes, I certainly want that for myself, too. That may be all I can manage, but it counts as a small step towards loving That Neighbor as myself.

The second commandment may be hard to follow in real life, but it doesn’t say to love the ideas, or the actions, but to love the neighbors.  Neighbors are just people — imperfect people who can grow wiser, change their ways, and perhaps even learn to love thy neighbor as themselves, in their own time and their own way.  

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