Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
By Cliff Leitch
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”—Mark 12:30–311
In Jesus’ teachings, our relationship with our fellow men, women and children is inseparable from our relationship with God. Love of God and love of our neighbors are two aspects of the same calling:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”—John 13:34–352
We commonly think of neighbors as the people who live near us, but Jesus meant it to include all mankind—even our enemies! Jesus told His famous parable of the Good Samaritan to make it clear that “love your neighbor” means to love all persons, everywhere—not just our friends, allies, countrymen, etc. (see Luke 10:25–37).
The Jews and Samaritans had been enemies for hundreds of years. The Jews of Jesus’ society considered the Samaritans to be ceremonially unclean, socially outcast, religious heretics. Yet, the Samaritan took pity on the poor man who had been robbed and beaten. He gave freely of both his time and his money to help this Jewish man who was not only a stranger, but also an enemy from a foreign country. In His parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus challenges us to “Go and do the same.”
To reinforce that “love your neighbor” applies to everyone, Jesus extended the rule of love to even our enemies!
“There is a saying, ‘Love your friends and hate your enemies.’ But I say: Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way you will be acting as true sons of your Father in heaven.”—Matthew 5:43–453
Like the unselfish Samaritan man of Jesus’ parable, we are called to extend our love and concern to all persons everywhere, as our neighbors. We should not exclude anyone or any group because of social status, a supposed character fault, religious difference, racial difference, ethnic difference, citizenship difference, etc.
Jesus could hardly have made things plainer than in His Parable of the Sheep and Goats (see Matthew 25:31–46). We are not meant to live hard-hearted or self-centered lives. We are called to put our faith into practice and truly love our neighbors, especially those less fortunate.
God has given each of us unique talents and gifts to use in His service. His work for us on earth is to use our gifts and talents in the service of others! Each of us has something to offer to someone in need. We can give our money and our time to charity, be a friend to someone who is sick or lonely, do volunteer work, or be a peacemaker. We may give unselfishly of our time to our spouse, children, or parents. We may choose a service-oriented occupation, or we may just do our everyday jobs with integrity and respect for others.
It would seem that the more we give to others, the poorer we become, but just the opposite is true! Service to others brings meaning and fulfillment to our lives in a way that wealth, power, possessions and self-centered pursuits can never match. As Jesus said,
“For if you give, you will get! Your gift will return to you in full and overflowing measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use to give—large or small—will be used to measure what is given back to you.”—Luke 6:384
Does this mean we can’t satisfy Jesus’ command unless we have abundant wealth to give, or extraordinary talents to serve others? No! It is not how much we give, but the spirit in which we give that counts with God. Each of us is called to give generously of what wealth and talents we have been given—whether it is a little or a lot. Jesus compared a poor widow, who gave only a little, to the wealthy men who gave much more. The wealthy men had only given a token amount from their great wealth. In God’s eyes, the widow gave much more because she gave from the heart:
“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.’”—Mark 12:41–445
Each of us has something to give. Some have wealth, some have talents, and some have time. Whatever gifts we have been given—large or small—we should share generously. When we do, we make the world better for someone else and find true meaning and satisfaction in our own lives.
In His sermons and parables, Jesus seeks to shock us out of our selfishness and worldliness and create in us a true passion for the welfare of our fellow men, women, and children around the world. Universal love is at the very heart of Jesus’ teachings; it is God’s earthly work for us.
What matters to God is our love for Him and our love for each other. Wealth, power and status count for nothing in the kingdom of God. When we truly love our neighbors, we do our part to make the world a better place, and we find our own fulfillment in life.
Excerpted from http://www.christianbiblereference.org/jneighbr.htm.
Copyright © by Cliff Leitch, The Christian Bible Reference Site, www.ChristianBibleReference.org. Used by permission.
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