Love Thy Neighbor

God said to love thy neighbor.

This I could do. 

Surely, I could love the family living next to mine, the ones who would have a barbeque each Sunday evening. I could definitely love those people and even their little dog too.

Even if I never meet these people, I could love them. They looked so perfect, as they sat on their patio with their watermelon and their hamburgers and, of course, their smiles. I wouldn’t be surprised if the father burnt the hamburgers one night, and they all laughed about it, as if his mistake was just an innocent blunder. They would eat the hamburgers after scraping off the charred bits, and they would laugh.

They looked so happy. So lovable. 

But that was in the summer.

In the winter, I didn’t see my neighbor. I still loved them, though, as I imagined them nestled together by the fire, warming their hands while sipping on hot chocolate. I’m sure the daughter gave her brother one fewer marshmallow in his hot chocolate, and he called her on it. And I’m sure she laughed and grabbed him another, smiling as she plopped it into his drink. They all chuckled at her jest, this I’m sure.

They were still so perfect even when they were tucked away inside, out of my view. 

They looked so happy — so lovable.

God said to love thy neighbor.

And I did. I loved the idea of my neighbor, the sight of my neighbor, the happiness of my neighbor, the life of my neighbor. I loved my neighbor. 

I’m sure things weren’t always perfect for them, but even in those moments of imperfection, I can only imagine their continued loyalty and love for each other. 

Even as the mother lost her job and struggled to find a new one, they would search the want ads and love each other through it. Even as the son failed his math exam, they would study with him and love each other through it. 

They loved each other through it, and I did too.

God said to love thy neighbor.

This I could do.

But when God said to love thy enemy, this I could not do.

I could not turn my eyes from the window and my beloved neighbors and look within my own home. I could not stop spinning my neighbors’ narratives and return to my own story. My heart and my eyes insisted on remaining across the way, fixed upon my blessed neighbor. I couldn’t even look at my enemy — how could I ever love him?

How could I ever love my enemy after all he had done to me? How could I love the man who said he loved me but then refused to show it? How could I ever pick up the broken pieces of my heart, patch them back together and tell them to love him again?

God said to love thy neighbor.

This I could do.

God said to love thy enemy. 

This I could not do. This I would not do.