Love your neighbor as yourself. While it might be easy to say, it is tough to do, and extremely difficult to do for any length of time.
This is one of the two commandments Jesus says is most important; the other commandment is to love the Lord God with all your heart, soul and mind. Of the two, this commandment to love your neighbor is likely to be the most difficult. While loving God is not always easy, it is even more difficult to love a neighbor who is unkind, quick to get angry or just seems to hate everything about you.
When Jesus said to love thy neighbor, he wasn't speaking literally and limiting the neighborly circle to only those people physically close to you. Everyone is your neighbor. Jesus defines neighbors by extending the neighborly circle to include people well outside your immediate neighborhood, town, state or country. Jesus means whether near or far, love the people in your life because they are part of God's family.
Family, friends, coworkers, business associates, drivers who cut you off in traffic, politicians who operate without your interests in mind after arriving in Washington D.C. are all in your neighborly circle as far as Jesus is concerned.
So, how do we do it?
Practice Love and Respect
Practice loving people each day, hour and minute. Accept that you will fail sometimes, but keep right on practicing. Too frequently people forget that those closest to them, may not feel loved. Balancing family, work or school demands can make some of the people in our closest neighborly circle the most distant from us. Not everyone finds expressing their feelings aloud all that easy to do, so find other ways to say, I love you. Holding a door open, offering your place in line, listening to a different opinion without rolling your eyes or volunteering your time can share your feelings without a single word.
Instead of avoiding people who are different or are, in your opinion, difficult to be around, seek them out to learn why they behave as they do. By learning what others believe or have learned helps you respect their differences. You don't have to accept their choices, but by choosing to respect the differences you demonstrate your love for a member of God's family. Respecting people of different religious backgrounds, or who have no religious beliefs at all, is one of the most difficult things to do.
Offer Prayer and Forgiveness
People make choices; both good and bad. Whether they hurt people physically, emotionally or spiritually, all people make bad choices from time to time. Pray that they will recover from their bad choices with lessons learned. Consider their circumstances and recognize that you may or may not be able to help them recover. A family member struggling with addiction may need professional counseling, support and help from more than well-intended family members.
Forgive your neighbor when needed and accept forgiveness from your neighbor when it is offered. Forgiveness doesn't mean the bad choice or hurt is forgotten, it means that you are willing to love the person and give the person a second chance.
Love your neighbor as yourself is simultaneously the most challenging and rewarding goal we can have. We have the opportunity each day to grow by respecting people with different opinions or values. We come closer to God's commandment each time we forgive someone. Following His commandment increases our neighborly circle so wide; everyone becomes a neighbor to love.