Growing up in the Episcopal Church, I heard the following words every Sunday in a slightly different version from the Book of Common Prayer (the 1928 as well as the "new one"):
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
I knew my neighbor was everyone from the girl who sat across the aisle from me in school to the crabby, old man who lived at the end of the block. I failed at loving my neighbors frequently whether they were cousins, friends, or strangers. I dealt with whomever entered my life well or not well at all.
As I matured, I noticed in some seasons of my life I was making strides loving my neighbor. Not giving myself a pat on the back here, trying to paint an honest picture of my walk with the Lord. Then low and behold, I experience a family feud with an in-law. At first I was stunned. I cried about it, laughed about it, talked about it (not exactly in truth and love), then simply grew used to it. There were times I wanted it worked out for another relative's sake as well as the young children in the family, but I did not steadily pray about it. Fast forward a decade and it appears it will work out...ultimately it did not.
The children were grown, the person I thought who would benefit the most from the feud ending died, and life went on. A pattern had begun which I did not recognize until recently.
I began withdrawing from difficult friends and family members. It is very easy to do now there are no PTA meetings, no gift exchanges for little children in the family. Holidays can be at my house, my way, with guests I choose. My home can be filled with laughter instead of someone complaining about their ex or their father or their boss or their spouse or their children. My home can be filled with fun people who won't sit on my couch telling me I cannot possibly understand how much my dad meant to him and how much he loved working for my father and how sad his life is now.
So I fooled myself for a while about loving my neighbors as myself, it is time to really love people. I have no trouble pouring out love in ministry to complete strangers who are often times emotionally wounded. It is time to look at the mission field of those I know.