Recently as I was driving home I saw a marquee out in front of a church that said "Love Your Enemy." That phrase got me to thinking of the other phrase we hear so often: "love your neighbor."
Firstly, who is my enemy? I actually can't personally think of any--I'm sure there are people out there who don't like me, but I figure that's their problem, not mine. I suspect that for most of us, in our day to day life, our 'enemies' are not close to home. They are distant and conceptual, and we have other things to worry about in our busy lives. So when the sermon on the mount tells us "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you," we smile and nod, say something cursory in our prayers, send a donation to somebody who does work in poor places (that's where terrorists come from, right?), and then pat ourselves on the back and go about our business.
Loving an unseen enemy can be easy. The depth of the love may be in question, but since we're not having any personal interactions with said enemies, it's not that big a deal...
But loving your neighbor?
You mean the neighbor who lets his dog poop in my yard?
How about the one who always drives on my grass?
Or the one who drives too fast down my little residential street where my kids play?
What about the son who never seems to pee quite in the toilet?
And the spouse who leaves his clothes on the floor?
The daughter who steals your makeup and then misses curfew? Frequently?
The child who talks back?
The family member who takes the last cookie?!
How easy is it to love these people?
Oh, sure, we 'love' them. We say we love them, we do nice things to and for them, we take care of them. But do we let ourselves get frustrated over things that don't really matter in the long run? Do we speak to them in anger? Why is it that we 'let our hair down' and act our worst when we are with the ones who matter most?
Yes, we certainly should make efforts to love our enemies. BUT, I think that the higher priority needs to be to love those who are all around us right here at home. After all, they have to live with us.