One day when our oldest son was about 6 years old, he came running into the house crying and very angry at Billy, the boy next door, who had roughed him up a bit. I tried to tell him he should try to forgive Billy, because God loved Billy just as much as he loved him. So if God could love Billy in spite of what he had done, then he should love and forgive him too. The answer he so quickly shot back at me just about surprised me speechless. "But Mom, God doesn't have to live next door to him," he said.
In his young mind, God seemed that far away from this problem. However, we know that is not true. God is not only next door, but his Spirit also lives in us. While we still do things that must irritate him — like the boy next door irritated my son — God stills loves us.
We are the ones who have trouble forgiving the "people next door," but God found a way to freely forgive all his "neighbors" through the sacrificial death of his only Son.
God found a way to freely forgive all his "neighbors."
Those of us who claim to be adults often need to hear the same message I was trying to get across to my son: if God can love and forgive, we can too. In her book Reduce Me to Love
, Joyce Meyer writes about people God puts in our lives to act as sandpaper. They can be very abrasive, but they are also very necessary to achieve that beautiful polished finish God wants in our lives — and the harder the rub, the better the finish.
So when irritating and frustrating people come our way, let's think of them as sandpaper. Let's realize that most of all, they are the neighbor that our Lord told us to "love as ourselves."