Do you remember what Jesus said about neighbours, when asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Most of us know His reply. He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’”
Considering these commandments, have you ever thought about your spouse being your “neighbour?” If so, he or she would be a pretty close neighbour. And according to your wedding vows, your spouse certainly should be closer than any other human being. That’s for sure!
Concerning This Issue
Here’s something that Joyce Meyer wrote (in her book, “Help Me, I’m Married”):
“When you read the Word of God, it says to make your neighbor happy. You are to edify and build him [or her] up spiritually. Do your thoughts lead you to the people next door? Did it even occur to you that this word might be in regard to how you should treat your spouse?
“The word ‘neighbor’ in Greek, according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance implies one who is ‘near,’ or ‘close by.’ Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary explains a neighbor as ‘one living or located near another.’ But for some reason, it seems easier to obey the Word if it doesn’t mean our immediate family.”
Pretty true, isn’t it? It’s no less important (and maybe more so) to love our spouse as God commands, than it is to love our next-door neighbor. Zig Ziglar, in his book, Courtship After Marriage discusses this very point. He tells of an incident when Don Hawkins, a pastor for almost 20 years, was counseling a couple on the verge of divorce.
“Don suggested to this couple that they go back to that point in time where they were in love. The man replied, ‘But I don’t love her anymore.’ Don said to the man, ‘You do respect the Bible, don’t you?’ ‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘Well, Scripture says, ‘Love Your Wife.’ The man replied, ‘Yes, but we’re not living together as husband and wife. We have separate bedrooms.’”
Don then replied, “’Oh, you’re living in rooms next to each other? Well, Scripture has a word for you, ‘Love Your Neighbor.’” To that:
“The young man retorted, ‘I don’t feel like she’s a neighbor. We relate to each other more like enemies.’ Don replied enthusiastically, ‘That’s great. I have good news for you. Scripture covers that base as well. It says, ‘Love Your Enemies.’”
Both husband and wife told Don:
“But we just don’t feel like loving each other, and we certainly wouldn’t want to be hypocritical, would we?”
There’s more to this true story. But eventually, Don was able to convince them to quit looking at being hypocritical and instead follow God’s commands to treat each other with love, and respect, etc. The result? Through time and effort, they were able to build a new love for each other and a great marriage. It took effort, but they obviously learned to love their “neighbor” spouse well. They were able to grow their marriage so it became a very loving one. Pretty good when you consider the fact that they were as close as ever to divorcing! Miracles still do happen when we do things God’s way.
Examine How You Treat Your “Neighbor” Spouse
Considering your spouse, your “neighbor,” examine how you treat him or her. Don’t allow the world to handcuff you into loving your spouse as others say you should. Look to the Bible as your guidebook in demonstrating your love towards your spouse. Keep in mind what we’re told in the Bible:
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. …The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.“ (See: James 3:13-18.)
May it be so, in how we treat our spouse, our neighbour!