Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor. In His stories, He spells out who is classified as a neighbor. The crowds don't like His examples. He identifies groups we would prefer to exclude from our social network. If they were connected to us on Facebook, we would block them. On Google Plus, we would not be putting these despised people in our cherished friends and family circles.
Why is loving these people so important to Jesus? Perhaps Jesus knows what it's like to be on the outside. He remembers His closest followers turning their backs on Him. He understands how deep the wounds are when someone is bullied.
Sometimes, love hurts. We reach out and love our enemies, yet all they do in return is mock us and criticize us. How can we keep loving when it's so painful?
There is one thing I remember about loving the unlovable neighbor. No matter how much this person hates me or rejects me, there is something inside my neighbor that is special. This neighbor was created as a reflection of God. When I turn my back on him or her, I'm rejecting the Creator.
Love is the most powerful emotion in all the world. God's love for us prompted Him to send His only Son to die for our sins. Jesus love for you and me allowed Him to endure unimaginable suffering. What will your love for your hated neighbor do? Give it a try, even if it hurts.