How to Love When Thy Neighbor is Thy Enemy

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Love Thy Neighbor…” (CC BY-NC 2.0) by Orignaux Moose

The holiday season is upon us, and for many, it has been a rough transition amid the post election day air. Tensions are high and yet the season is calling to us that “it is better to give than to receive” and “to love your neighbor as you love yourself.”  How do we navigate season’s greetings when so many are still dressing the wounds of trauma and fear? Lately “love thy neighbor” seems synonymous with “love thy enemy”. It seems simple enough to love your neighbor, but your enemy? Not only to love them in a passive I’m-a-Christian-so-love-is-kinda-my-thing-way, but to love them the way that we are supposed to love ourselves, the way Christ loves us. That’s radical.

I don’t have any easy answers, but something happened to me recently that caused my heart to feel “strangely warmed”, to quote John Wesley. On Saturday I was met at my front door with some volunteers from the local Southern Baptist Church. They showed up to bring me some food for Thanksgiving. Mind you,  I didn’t sign up to receive it, they merely coordinated with my child’s school to donate food to their neighbors because “they can”. Out of their abundance they wanted to bless their neighbors. No strings attached. No one asked how much our household income was or if we were worthy of what they were offering. I wasn’t expecting much. I thought maybe a few canned goods, maybe a plate of classic Thanksgiving staples, enough for our family of three.

Nope.

I was overwhelmed. They brought us not three plates, but three large boxes of food including the 13 pound turkey that we prepared today for our family. I kept thinking we really don’t even need this. Surely there are families out there that are more in need of this than we are. Why us? I was just so undone by this unexpected, but appreciated blessing. Here I was in the hallway of my apartment, holding hands in prayer with these Southern Baptists, who statistically probably did vote opposite us and all I could feel was the love of Christ radiate from them. This was the closest thing to a comforting word that I had received since the election. Even if they were unaware of how it was being received, even if they wouldn’t have wanted to send that message, I grabbed the moment and I held on tight. 

I wasn’t physically in need of these groceries, but my spirit was desperate for an act of love from the Evangelical church. In the wake of the election results, my family felt like our world was turned upside down. We felt betrayed in a sense by some of our friends and family, not because they didn’t vote for our candidate, but because of the overwhelming apathy in response to the trauma and anxiety we have been facing since.

Radio Silence.

Moving forward, we must resist injustice on all fronts, stand for what is right, not waver on speaking the truth, shine light in dark places, and peacefully protest, but we need not withhold love while doing all of the above. I never thought that days before Thanksgiving I would be holding hands with a couple of Baptists that just decided that they wanted to spread some holiday cheer. Honestly, I don’t really know how to love when your neighbor turns out to be your enemy, but I think it looks something like this.

♥ MM

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