Anybody else find it hard to love thy neighbor? Kids in Ethiopia, I'm all over that, the homeless guy down town, I'll give 'em a buck. Troubled teens, bring them on. But the lady who lives next door who hates kids and has a mean yappy dog...well, she's just plain unlovable.
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, "Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Gnarly. There's no loop hole...I've looked...but still all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
So earlier today when the "Mean Lady"(as she has been not-so-affectionately labeled by the neighborhood kids) approached me, wagging her finger and hollering complaints and annoyances, clearly I had not only a responsibility, but was actually commanded by the creator of the earth and skies…to love her.
I told her that if she didn’t like it here she should just move out.
She pointed her finger at my face and told me I was evil and my children were evil and that she didn’t know what sorts of things I was being taught at my so-called church but that I wasn’t a very good Christian.
She said that to me and stared me down with her beady little eyes…while over a dozen kids sat out in the driveway watching.
Well, this just made my Russian blood boil!
In my defense, for the past two years since the Mean Lady moved in, she’s done nothing but scream and yell and complain and alienate every neighbor on our street. And in all this time, I’ve never had so much as a single unkind word with her. But she’s been so unbearable for so many of my friends that I figured this time, she had it coming.
Or did she?
Two commandments, Love God, love your neighbor. The first is the greatest, but the second is like it? So you mean to tell me that loving this Mean Lady is like loving God?
So the drama continued with just about half a dozen ticked off neighbors gathering to talk smack while she huffed and puffed and took pictures of the kid’s scattered toys and sidewalk chalk drawings. She said she was gonna get us all restraining orders. A few of us said we were gonna get em for her too.
Then she stormed into her house and we let off all the steam we could muster. We said, “Yeah, you’re right…she’s mean…she’s crazy… you don’t deserve that…”
Then a moment later, she came back. She was shaking with big-baby tears pooled in her eyes. “We should talk,” she says.
Now I reckoned that this was a divine appointment.
So me and two of the other Christian moms stood with our arms folded across our chests. And then she hollered a bit more and then we hollered back…nobody really listened much. But somewhere in the messiness of all the “she said, she said”…the Gospel shone through.
She said, “I just feel like you all just hate me,” which wasn’t entirely untrue.
But then she said, “I just wish we could have a fresh start.”
Ahhh..so there it is…the loop hole…a fresh start. Loving God and loving your neighbor is in it’s very nature all about screwing up and having the graceful opportunity to try again. And somewhere in the messiness of it all, is truly where the magic of God’s love is glorified.
“Well,” I told her, “we are actually all about fresh starts.” Then we talked for a good while about the healing and restorative power of Jesus Christ of Nazereth and then we even prayed together …and like balm to a wound, things softened.
Eventually, we came to some compromises on her demands and we all promised to wave and be more friendly. Turns out, although her list of gripes was long, at the very top of that list was that she felt left out and unloved.
I wonder if now would be a bad time to tell her that her yappy dog woke me up at the crack of dawn this morning?