I remember seeing a Love thy neighbor billboard in 1999. It wasn’t long before I saw similar -God billboards but the Love thy neighbor one has lingered in the back of my mind. It spoke to my heart when I saw it. I needed the gentle reminder. Love, unconditional love, had to be cultivated in my interior life. The garden of my heart had to be tilled, plowed, dug, hoed, and farmed. It was worked, mulched and weeded. It was even fertilized, meaning I had to go through some “crap” before any fruit could be seen much less harvested in the garden of my heart. It has been an ongoing process. Season after season. Love is a fruit of Holy Spirit. The Fruit of the Holy Spirit is a biblical term that sums up nine attributes of a Christian life. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)” Love had to be cultivated in my life. It took time to grow.
Loving thy neighbor as thyself ? How does one accomplish this while dealing with self loathing behavior? A contributing factor in my feelings of self-loathing was shame. Shame had to be pruned out of the garden of my heart. That didn’t mean it was gone for good. It has been pruned many times … but that’s a post for another day. Loving your enemies? This is where I saw the most fertilizer being heaped upon the garden of my heart. “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. Matthew 5:44 ” I really did grow by choosing to love those who were putting me through crap. You don’t realize it at the time and you have to remember to not grow weary in the process.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
The yoke Jesus spoke about is easy but it still IS a yoke. The burden is light but it IS a burden. Ponder these things deep within the interior of your heart for a moment. Love, unconditional love has to be cultivated in order to grow. Season after season, it requires work and effort. The sweet fruit it brings into your life will make it all worthwhile.