Loving the Ones In Front of Us

Mount Reynolds from the Highline Trail, Glacier National park, Montana
Mount Reynolds from the Highline Trail, Glacier National park, Montana

I was talking the other day with a young guy who was trying to convince me that hanging out with his friends was more important than being with his family.  “My pastor told me community is important,” he said.  “Besides, my family is ‘crazy’.”

Jumping down sand dunes in Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
Jumping down sand dunes in Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

As nicely as I could, I tried to help him see that his family (who I know – and who happen to be smart, loving, eclectic, God-followers, and just plain nice people to be around) loved him very much and liked being around him.  But more than that, I tried to help him see that God had put him in the family he was in and that he needed to love the people God had put in front of him.  It’s not that his friends were bad people to be with; in fact, hanging out with friends is healthy.  But if you can’t love the people that God has put around you (or put you around them), then how do you think you’re qualified to love the people outside of the group God has given you first and foremost?

Climbing around at Castle Crags, California

When Jesus was asked about the most important commandment, He 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.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Looking through an arch in The Den, Big Bend National Park, Texas
Looking through an arch in The Den, Big Bend National Park, Texas

It’s so easy to say that we love our neighbors.  They’re across the fence in their yards minding their own business.  But the people we’re with all the time?  That annoying coworker who’s always making too much noise?  The parent or sibling that’s constantly driving us crazy and trying to keep us from what we want to do?  The person on Facebook who’s constantly posting political stuff we don’t agree with?  The churchmate who lets their kids run wild and who judges everything we do?

Shadows of early morning hikers at Pueblo del Arroyo, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico
Shadows of early morning hikers at Pueblo del Arroyo, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico

There are neighbors, for better or for worse, and the second greatest commandment in the Bible is to love them.  In fact, given the fact that God had placed us in their company – or them in our company – they should be the first people on our list to make sure that we love.

Climbing the Cinder Cone in Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
Climbing the Cinder Cone in Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

I’m not saying that it’s always easy to love the people we’re around.  They can get on our nerves.  But I’m finding more and more that God really cares about whether we love – or not.  And I don’t want to be in the “not” category.

Ore tramway at Keane Wonder Mine, Death Valley National Park, California
Ore tramway at Keane Wonder Mine, Death Valley National Park, California

It’s sort of like when we get so obsessed with the distant hiking destinations we could be visiting: the Rockies, the Grand Canyon, the Pacific Coast. It’s not wrong to enjoy those, but we can get so hung up on them that we miss the beauty that’s right in front of our eyes – the local views and trails. They’re so normal that we don’t even think about them anymore.

Chimney Bluffs, New York
Chimney Bluffs, a local park

Take a step back – realize who is in front of you and who God wants you to love and appreciate. Like a local trail, we can become so accustomed to a family member’s likable traits that we forget that these are the ones God wants us to love – first and foremost.