“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44 ESV)
As the tour bus wound through the Galilean countryside into the Golan Heights, our guide pointed out the bright yellow signs posted on wire fences along the road: Danger! Mines! — in English, Arabic, and Hebrew. Mines are still buried in the fields from as long ago as the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israelis and Arabs desperately fought each other.
Then she told us an amazing story that I doubt was featured on the nightly news. During the conflict, injured enemies ended up in Israeli territory, either as prisoners or refugees. Regardless of their nationality, the Israelis took them into their hospitals, treated their wounds or illnesses, and gave them food and shelter. This was a source of much wonder to those who perceived the Israelis as “the enemy”. Our guide said that it changed many attitudes.
“And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Matthew 22:37-39 ESV)
“All” is repeated three times in these verses. Somewhere, I heard the saying, “All means all — and that’s all there is to it.” Loving the Lord our God is a total commitment — no holding back. In my Bible, I underlined “mind”, to help me to remember that it’s also a deliberate choice. I have to focus on it and make a conscious decision to implement it.
Loving our neighbour is an extension of that choice. It should overflow out of our love relationship with our Lord and into the lives of all those around us. (There’s that word again!)
So, who is my neighbour? It’s easy to love people who treat me well or who have pleasant personalities. But what about the others? Is it the stranger I encounter at the store who might need comfort or attention — but I’m in a rush? Is it the person down the street whose habits bother me? Is it my friend who is having a bad day when I have too much to do to comfort her? Is it a family member who unloads all his problems on me? Is it that person I work with on a job or committee whose ideas don’t mesh with mine?
If the Israelis could give shelter and sustenance to their enemies in the midst of an intense war, I should be able to look beyond my own selfish concerns and reach out to those around me to demonstrate God’s love wherever it is needed, regardless of attitudes, actions, habits, or nationality. Will you join me in this effort?
Prayer: Father, help me to be loving, not just to those who love me or who please me, but to those whose lives may be difficult, whose personalities may be prickly, or who may be in situations that I’d rather not get involved in. Help me to think Your thoughts and model Your actions to all around me. Amen.
Apache Junction, Arizona, USA
Reprinted from the PresbyCan Daily Devotional with the author’s permission