Jesus said the second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Tough words. For, if we are being honest with ourselves, that commandment almost seems… annoying. Loving our neighbor is simply not something most of us intuitively want to do. In today’s podcast, I talk about how we can better love our neighbor.
The Source Of Our Love
First of all, I think we need to acknowledge that the second commandment issues out of the first commandment, “to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength.”
We love other people as an act of loving God. For our fellow man is created in the image and likeness of God. So, if we love God, we should love everything that resembles God. Just as we love photographs of our families and cherish them, we should love other people, who are also something of a snapshot and picture of God.
Second, I think we need to acknowledge that this commandment is indeed, something we have to be commanded to do. For intuitively, genuinely loving others is not something that comes easy to us. Yes, we may naturally love our families, friends, and people who otherwise do things that make our lives better. But people who don’t fit neatly into one of those categories… people who fall outside those groups… not so much. It’s hard to love such people.
Which means three things. First, it means we have to acknowledge that our emotional connection with others has nothing to do with this commandment. Second, it means we are going to have to make the conscious decision to actually love them, in spite of our emotions. Third, and I believe this arises from practicing this commandment, you can expect to see your heart transformed as you continually put this commandment into practice.
Who Is Your Neighbor?
Jesus told a story about this.
In Luke 10, Jesus gave us the parable of the Good Samaritan. It’s a story in which a man was on a journey, and overtaken by robbers and left for dead. A priest walked by, saw him, and decided to cross over to the other side of the street. Later, one of the priest’s kin saw the man, and he also did the same. Finally, a man of another race, a Samaritan, saw the man, took pity on him, gave him medical attention, and took him to a place he could receive care.
The lesson of this parable? You are the neighbor! And God wants us to love on those who aren’t in our immediate circles.
But what does that love look like? It’s very hands on and practical.
The Golden Rule
Jesus taught elsewhere that everything in the law and prophets can be summed up in this: Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. That’s the simple starting point. The Golden Rule. Don’t treat others as they deserve. Treat others like you’d want to be treated if you were them.
Which means we have to start thinking of others before we think of ourselves. Put others first. Don’t just do the minimum to get by with others. Go above and beyond, go the extra mile. When you do something for someone, do it well, and sprinkle a little something extra on whatever it is you do.
And what is our motivation in this? Doesn’t this sound exhausting? Won’t people take advantage of your genorisity? Won’t they fail to reciprocate that love? Yes, loving on others can be hard, especially as they fail to treat you with the same love back.
But that’s okay. These are your neighbors, whoever your neighbors are. They’ll probably never fully return your love. They aren’t family and friends, with whom love is often much more of a two way street.
We choose to love on others, because we remember these individuals are created in the image of the God we love. We love on them as an extension of our love for God Himself. We love on others as an act of devotion to God.