I found this sign on my fridge a few days ago:
Sometimes my kids place their own artwork on the refrigerator, which is pretty funny to me. Obviously with this one, my daughter had slightly confused the words from Galatians 5:14, which says "Love your neighbor as yourself."
But sometimes a mistake in wording, like this one, can make me stop and think. And as I considered this drawing on my fridge, I realized that it is often much harder to love your "family" as yourself than to love your "neighbor" as yourself.
I mean, think about it. Loving my neighbor usually involves simple things like smiling and waving, making small talk, and maybe inviting their kids over to play in the yard for a few hours. Sometimes we get one another's mail or check on their house when they're out of town. We may help them with a small yard or house project and take them a meal or dessert every now and then. But really, these things are often scheduled or planned. There is usually a set beginning and end time and its usually done at our convenience.
But loving your family is a constant responsibility. It doesn't matter if you're tired, sick, hungry or stressed. It doesn't matter if its early in the morning or the middle of the night. They want three meals a day, every day, and usually a snack in between. When your kids are done playing in the yard, your creative activity responsibilities don't end. In fact, mine usually come inside and want to know "what's next?"
Loving my family as myself is hard. It requires round the clock sacrifice. It requires a continual servant's heart. It requires that I remain close to the Lord, guided by His grace, love and care.
But, as I think about all this, I realize that that kind of sacrifice is likely what God actually meant when He said to love my neighbor as myself. Perhaps there's much more to it than just waving hello and bringing their trash to the curb every now and then. Maybe my love for my neighbor should involve a continual, sacrificial care just like my family expects.
I admit there's no way I can do this on my own. The very thought of pouring out more time, more energy, more sacrifice is completely exhausting and overwhelming to me right now. But, I could at least be open to letting God fill me and strengthen me and pour me out in whatever way He wants.
In fact, I've seen this done well. I've experienced this first-hand. We have a neighbor who has loved us so completely, so sacrificially, and so generously that our kids call them their "in-town" grandparents.
As I thank God for these great neighbors, I am reminded that "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required" (Luke 12:48). I know what God's Word says. I've seen it modeled before me. Now the question becomes "will I live it out?"
I can't be a "super neighbor" on my own. But I can make an effort to ask God "who do YOU want me to love today?" And then obey Him and trust Him to help me live it out; to truly love my family, my neighbor, others in my community and anyone the Lord brings into my life. To love them...you know, like myself.