Jesus summed up our duty to those around us in just five words; “love your neighbour as yourself”. As a good Jew, he was in fact quoting from the Old Testament; a line from the Book of Leviticus. The words are beautifully simple, but so hard to put into practice. Jesus famously expanded on who our neighbour might be in the parable of the Good Samaritan, a call to look beyond those who we naturally want to identify with and help. Leviticus takes 27 chapters to amplify who its author(s) thought our neighbours are and how we should love them. It’s not always a thrilling read, but a theme does goes through it; to look after “the alien”, because “I am the Lord your God”. God’s love is not restricted to those in the holy huddle. So Jesus calls us to live in the “Kingdom of God”, that place where God is. It has been called the Kingdom for those who love. Which is fine, except for the fact that I’m not particularly loveable and, if I’m being honest, I don’t always like the people around me. I suspect I’m not alone in feeling this. We are human; we are fallen humans and what happens when the Kingdom of God is fully complete is different from where we are in the here-and-now.
But there is hope. We are called to love people; not necessarily to like them and I think there is a difference. We can recognise short-comings, both in ourselves and others, that there may be mutual incompatibility in our relationships. But we can always pray for each other. An 18th century spiritual writer, William Law, wrote “There is nothing that makes us love a man so much as praying for him”. Well, I’m not sure it is quite that simple, but we can always pray; love is something we can work at. So perhaps there is a challenge for us; let’s follow Jesus’s words this week, by picking someone we don’t like and praying for them, however you understand prayer.