How to love your neighbor as yourself when you don't ACTUALLY love your neighbor as yourself

by-grace-blog-love-your-neighbor

Do not waste time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

In high school, I used to volunteer at the Second Chance animal shelter for two reasons. The first – I loved kittens, and my cat Krispy was old, senile and avoided my affection at all costs. The second – I loved to volunteer, but humans made me quite uncomfortable. So an animal shelter seemed like a perfect fit.

And it was for about two years. I recruited a bunch of friends to help, the whole time accidently calling it Last Chance animal shelter, to which people would always start laughing. Such an unfortunate word switch.

I'd leave dance or tennis practice (whichever it was on that day), drive out to the Last/Second Chance animal shelter and pat those cute little kittens for 30-minute increments. Every time, I'd walk out of the building feeling like Mother Teresa, thinking that if God gave report cards mine would have an A+ with a gold star. And all without having to interact with any humans – YES!

A couple of times a year, my father would take my family to the downtown homeless shelter to serve a meal, and my high school self would go kicking and screaming the entire time. It's very difficult to hold up a pout and serve a meal, so I stuck a smile on my face and pushed down the ladle into what looked like corn mush.

As the hour went on, something odd happened. I no longer felt the pinch on my cheeks; my smile started to become real. My heart began to soften for each person that walked past me. I stopped looking at my watch to check the time. I took a seat at the table, listened as he spoke to my father about what had happened to him last night. I started to understand that what I had discarded as corn mush was his only meal of the day.

He showed my father the scar on his chest, and I had to stop myself from crying.

Perspective is a powerful thing.

Something happens when you start to have a relationship with someone very different than you. You start to realize – they are you.

Maybe they don't look like you. Yes, the shell is often very different. But the inside - that part where we have emotions and struggles and dreams and hopes - that's what looks like you.

It wasn't until I read Mere Christianity that I really started to get it. It's ok if you don't feel like driving to the homeless shelter or making time for that person. We're human – and that means we pretty much always don't feel like doing the things we know we should do.

But one of the greatest commands on our lives is this – love your neighbor as yourself.

So one of the greatest challenges we face is this - how do you love someone when you don't feel love towards them?

CS Lewis says, easy - you act as if you love them. Ask yourself, "If I loved this person, what would I do? If I loved God, what would I do?" And then – you go do that. Somehow, in the most inexplicable way, your heart just kind of catches up with your actions.

The world only loves people that they instinctively feel compassion for. This is where those that love Jesus are separated from the pack – we are called to love those that we do not initially have mercy towards or common ground with. We love those that we don't feel like loving.

"You don't have to like it, you just have to eat it," my dad would say, as I'd turn up my nose up at the okra on my plate and cross my little arms in rebellion. I hated it when he said that. It was like a bad Nike slogan to eat broccoli.

But – sigh – now, I realize that his mentality was pretty on point. You don't have to like it – you just have to do it. Because I've found out that when I'm doing things that align with God's heart, somehow, my heart has a way of just, catching up.

Until next time,

Emily