Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

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Yesterday, I talked about the First Great Commandment. Today, I share my thoughts on the Second Great Commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (link)

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” There are two parts to this:

  1. Love yourself.
  2. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Some religions teach that your body is a dirty thing that needs to be tortured and punished into submission. Or they might teach that our body isn’t an important part of who we really are. To Jesus, this would contradict the “Love yourself” part of the commandment.

We must first care about ourselves, who we are and how we are doing. If we can not care for yourselves, we cannot help anyone else.

So the first part is to care for yourself. Love yourself. If no one else in the world loves you, at least you love you.

Once we’ve begun the process of loving ourselves, then we turn outwards and start loving our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.

Who are our neighbors? In English, this brings to mind the people living around us. While true, we are all, in a way, neighbors, all living on this rock hurtling through empty space, together. Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan is a powerful testament that neighbors need not be even from the same country, but can in fact come from countries that despise each other.

So our neighbors are Fred and Jill down the street, but also Ahmed in Iran and Mr. Kim in North Korea.

How do we love our neighbors? The same way we love ourselves.

Do you see someone who needs food, clothing, or shelter? Wouldn’t you work hard to get such for yourself? Then work to provide it for them.

Do you like to spend your time enjoying the good things of life? Then work to provide the same for your neighbors.

The kind of love that Jesus advocates isn’t the kind of love where we send pleasant thoughts and kind smile alone. It’s the kind of love where you get your hands dirty and put yourself at risk to help people who need it. It’s the kind of love where you go out of your way at your own expense to find people who need help and then help them.

This the commandment that when people who work in industry follow it, they quickly find that they have more than enough business and more than enough profits than they could ever hope to use. It’s the waitress who truly serves the customers. It’s the manager who goes out of his way to see that the needs of his business and employees and customers are all met. It’s the engineer who pours his mental energies into the design he’s working on to ensure that people can have a superior product at a minimum of cost. It’s the investor who searches high and low for the best investment, and finding it, not only offers his money, but becomes a part of the team, helping in whatever way he can to see the investment pay off.

Notice that it doesn’t have to be a charitable contribution to come from the heart. Our entire capitalistic system is built on the idea of finding a need and meeting it. When people engage in commerce and trade that is win-win, when both sides are truly trying to satisfy the needs of the other, then we see incredible profits and progress.

We can be calculating, indeed we must, both to provide for ourselves and to provide for others. Giving five dollars to a beggar is nice, but what is nicer is giving that same five dollars to an institution that can stretch it into feeding many more people than just one. Donating your money to a charity with a 10% overhead is good, but donating it to one with a 0% overhead is better. Maybe that same money is better spent on social services to help families and individuals who are coming to the end of their rope. Or maybe it is better spent at the hospital to provide necessary treatments. Or maybe still, it could be better spent investing in new technologies and industries so that the same person can find a job in a rapidly growing industry.

And sometimes love means denying someone something they want. You wouldn’t help an addict get his fix, but rather help him break his habit. You also wouldn’t give machine guns to a warlord, or help a corrupt accountant cover up the company’s financial misfortunes. Helping people to do bad things is no help at all.

If we, as a society, carefully considered our actions, and asked at every turn:

  1. Is this showing love for those divine attributes that God is and possesses? In other words, does this love God?
  2. Is this showing love for myself and others equally? In other words, does this love others as myself?

If we pondered these questions at every turn, then I believe we would be a far better people.

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