Why did they show such disdain, even hatred, so unreasonably? So unrighteously? We may never know or understand.
Each day we snap on the leashes (which takes a while with two jumping, overjoyed dogs) and follow our fence line down to a utility easement and from there out onto the quiet roads of the neighborhood where we live.
We share this easement area with another neighbor. Each time we head out on our walks, our dogs greet the lovely brown dog behind their fence, and the three play a little for the moment it takes us to get past the yards and down to the street.
Harmless interaction, or so we thought.
Until the morning we awoke to the sound of hammering, looked out the window and discovered a new fence being installed along the easement, precisely at the property line and adorned with menacing looking NO TRESSPASSING signs.
New to the neighborhood, we attempted a friendly overture to the neighbor, to discover what offense may have prompted such a response, who rebuffed us rather gruffly and with language we won’t repeat here.
We still don’t know and may never know what sparked such a drastic reaction from this neighbor, but we discovered an awful lot we didn’t know about ourselves!
For instance, as Christians and ministers, we maintained an attitude of loving everyone. We thought we even loved the unlovable.
Until we found ourselves struggling to love this neighbor. Struggling to pray for them. Struggling to the resist the urge to bang on the door and demand to know what offense we had committed to find ourselves facing an army of large, angry NO TRESPASSING signs every time (twice a day!) we took our dogs for a walk. Forgiving them was easy, loving them? Not so much!
Have you ever been suddenly confronted with hatred that had no explanation or reasoning you could fathom behind it?
Did you know Jesus told us to expect to be hated? He did, in John 15:18.
The “world”, those who have not, who will not receive His loving gift of salvation, hated Him and they will hate us, too.
What should our response be? First, don’t be alarmed if you find yourself, like us, struggling with the “right” attitude. We are human, and God knows the weakness of our flesh. But that is NOT an excuse to disobey the Word of the Lord or mistreat anyone else.
We are to LOVE our enemies, do good to those who spitefully use us and pray for them.
It isn’t easy but it is righteous. We may not be able to accomplish this in our flesh at least not without a struggle, but by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, we can.
I admit, the first couple of times I prayed for these neighbors, I’m not 100% certain my heart was in it. After a few prayers, I found my heart changed. I love them and genuinely desire to see them saved and experiencing the love of Christ for themselves. Now when I read each of the 4 signs on my way to the road to walk the dogs, I ask God 4 times to break down the walls of their hearts and flood them with His everlasting love and light and new life in Christ.
Following the path Jesus asks us to walk isn’t easy and isn’t always filled with joy. But it is always possible and always filled with victory through Him who loves us unconditionally.