I spend 8 months out of the year living in a community that is 90% LDS, where guys come over wearing suits and ties and bearing a spiritual message and girls come bearing plates of cookies and a whole lot of love and support. Practically everyone in the community has a smile for you, no matter how dreary the day. It’s peaceful and full of cheer, and I love knowing that if I need anything from a cup of sugar to a priesthood blessing, I can find it within minutes. You sit and chat a while in the south, and that extends onto college campuses.
You could say it’s a hard transition back to Connecticut where my neighbors cuss, drink, and stay up till the wee hours of the morning blaring music that errs on the side of offensive and inappropriate. The kids are as likely to flip you the bird as they are to wave, and the parents are heard, never seen.
My frustration grows as I sit at my desk trying to focus, or am attempting to get to bed at a decent hour, only to be startled by them as they scream at one another, peal out of their driveway, slam doors, and blare music that has the capability to make even the hardest blush if they listened to the lyrics.
I sit craving peace and quiet, when I am reminded that we are asked to love our neighbors.
In this case, it is our literal next door, can see when your light is on, almost ran into your child playing basketball in the street, next door neighbors.
We don’t live in a neighborhood of quiet comradery – we live in a melee of cultural, societal, and moral differences. It’s a microcosm of the world in a way. I don’t agree with what our neighbors sometimes decide to do, but the golden rule, the highest law, the thing that Christ asked us to do above all else, we have to love our neighbors.
When you live beside (or with) people long-term, you end up seeing their flaws and imperfections before you see them as a person whom Christ loves as much as He does you.
Mark 12:31 says, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
Only two verses later, Christ continues, “And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
I realized, reading this verse over and over with my neighbors in mind, that the word “understanding” is key to the entire idea.
We don’t see what goes on behind closed doors, what struggles they face, what they have triumphed in, how their families and friends are doing.
Understanding asks that we try to see them as God does, but not judge them. To realize that they face battles like the rest of us, and that they might need a little more love, a little more support, and a little more understanding at certain times. A gruff or angry exterior might, and usually does, hide a deep and loving heart that is just as filled with the emotions of humanity as ours is.
So when we get annoyed with the loud music, the incessant yelling, and the kids in the street, this scripture comes to mind without a second of hesitation. I am thankful for the Lord’s correction and for the opportunity I have to take on a new perspective and see my neighbors more like He sees them.