Jesus told his followers to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and your neighbor as yourself.” What did he mean? How do you go about loving your neighbor? Who is your neighbor anyway?
How many of us, as parents, have watched our child get hurt on the playground? We see it happen, and we feel in our own bodies the hurt that our child is experiencing, don’t we? If one we love is hurting, we feel their hurt in our body and we rush to help them. I think that is what Jesus was talking about when he said: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I’d like to share with you several keys that enable us to truly love our neighbors as we love ourselves:
- The first, and most important key is to experience God’s love ourselves. If we have not experienced God’s love for us and come to trust in God’s love and care for us it is difficult for us to love anyone else—including ourselves and your neighbor. We are like children who have never experienced love who find it difficult or impossible to love anyone else, including themselves.
- The second key is to be able to see God in the face of our neighbor. All of us are God’s children and are created in God’s image. Our neighbor is a child of God. That neighbor may look much different than us. They may be mean and nasty. They may be immoral. They may be dirty and unkempt. They may be frightening in their looks. But they are a child of God nonetheless. Jesus told a parable about neighbors in answer to someone’s question—“Who is my neighbor?” It is the parable of the Good Samaritan. In the story, the one who turns out to be the good neighbor is a Samaritan who was despised by the Jews. Likewise Samaritans were known to despise Jews. Yet the Samaritan is the one who saw a dying man on the side of the road and stopped to help him when the members of the Jewish religious community passed by on the other side. The Samaritan did not see a despised Jewish man on the side of the road, but saw a child of God. He saw the face of God in that Jewish man who was near death and came to his aid.
- The third key is action. It is not enough to see your neighbor’s face and to see them as a child of God—you must act, if you are to show love to your neighbor. Love is not just a feeling—-it is much more. Love is expressed in action. Love is binding up the wounds of the bleeding man. For us, love of neighbor is putting your arms around the homeless man who is dirty and despairing and giving them a hug. Love is feeding the hungry. Love is clothing those who are needy. Love is getting medical care for the one who is sick. Love is treating fellow children of God as we would like to be treated if we were in their situation. Love is an action word!
Are we following this Great Commandment of Jesus and loving our neighbor as ourselves? Are we?