It seems lessons about love have been coming to me frequently and in a variety of forms lately. It’s humbling when you learn lessons you didn’t realize you needed.

To start, and this is not a new lesson just an observation, there are a few love relationships that have certain necessary components.

First and foremost, as a Christian I love God. To love God means I accept His love, I worship Him, I spend time in His word and I apply His teachings to my life here on earth.

Second I love my husband.  Where loving Chris is easy, love isn’t the only reason I married him.  When looking at the qualities of a spouse one should consider them carefully.  Are they a good person? Do their values and goals compliment yours? And then of course… are they good lookin’ to you? Do you like them as well as love them? Do you respect them? With Chris I found all these qualities and more.

Third is parents. The Bible tells us to love and honor our parents. We should also respect them.  I have always been blessed by my parents and loving them has never been a challenge.  They have always treated me with love and I value them greatly but really I should love them no matter what.

Then there are all the other people in our lives. It’s love for these other people where I have been learning lessons.

1Corinthains says: 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

For me, it’s easy to apply these verses to Chris (well at least it’s easy to try to). It’s even easy to apply these verses to my parents and of course most easily is to God.

But what about all the other people in life? We are called to “Love our neighbor”. So here’s what I’ve been thinking about love and neighbors. First when I say neighbor I’m basically talking about everyone other than my husband, my parents and God.

It’s very cool to me that God made us have a need for relationship.  That He also provides people in my life, some friends and some family, that meet this need.  I am blessed to have people I love and also love being around.  With these people I have many, many pleasant memories.  Not everyone in our lives though is someone we “just can’t help but love”.

To love my neighbor, I don’t have to compare them to the same criteria or components as I do God, Chris and my parents.  I don’t have to agree with who they vote for, what they spend their free time doing or even which church they attend (or don’t attend) on Sunday morning.   I don’t have to respect someone to love them.  I don’t even really have to like them. I don’t have to enjoy spending time with them, like the way they look, like the same foods as them, have the same hobbies, love the same things they do or agree with them to love them.

In our lives, we get to have friends and family that compliment us, that we enjoy spending time with, that we care for deeply and of course love. But to love someone we don’t have to have all of that.

I don’t know why but when I think of love for my neighbor as “criteria free” I feel a weight lifted from my shoulders. I don’t have to think. I don’t have to analyze.  I. Can. Just. Love.  Thank you to the people in my life who have shown me how to love this way. I am trying daily to heed your lessons…