I think that despite Jesus' repeated teachings and Paul's subsequent examination upon the practice, "Love Your Neighbor" is one of, if not THE most difficult of God's Core Values to embrace; not understand-- [i]embrace[/i].
[i]25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”[/i] (Luke 10.25-29 NIV)
Even here, when Jesus is teaching, we see the kind of niggling and definition-mongering that is done to wiggle out of embracing that which we abhore. Men will swear they will jump into flaming pits of lava to demonstrate their love for God, but will utterly refuse to shake hands with someone of whom they dispise. That it is such an anathema to the human flesh should be a testament that this is something only the Holy Spirit can endow us with the sincere sympathetic alignment required to regard those we loath as brothers.
Unfortunately, our failure to do so becomes a living testament to our failure to be God's disciples, for this was the litmus that Jesus declared would be our testament to the world that we are being His true followers. Not how orthodox we are, not how knowledgable we are, not the flaming lava pits we dive into to martyr ourselves -- no. Our martyrdom to self in love for our enemies is God's requirement for our lives to point towards His Holiness, Grace and Glory. Nothing short of that will do. No lip-service, no political posing, no shouting from the rooftops, no public demonstrations or blogging, no gold-star church attendance has Our Lord designated how those Strangers to God shall see Him upon this earth. And we, as Christians, spend the lion's share of our time, niggling and definition-mongering to justify ourselves in place of true service to Our Lord. It is strange that this is so, because our mandate is pretty clear:
[i]36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” [/i](Luke 10.36-37 NIV)