Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

5 11 2009

All of this talk about our village and how we can truly give to others makes me think of one of the first bible verses I ever learned which is…

 ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. –  Matthew 19:-19b (NKJ)

 This is actually one of the 10 commandments and when I explore this commandment there are two words that stick out for me; love & neighbor.  I would think that love in this verse applies to the way we treat ourselves so my exploration then turns to the word neighbor.  

When you think of the word neighbor, the first thing that comes to my mind is the person who lives next door or maybe on your block, but for some reason I don’t think that was all this verse meant by neighbor…..hmmm what did Jesus mean here???  Here’s another verse that I think will answer that question….

 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect..” – Matthew 5:43-48 (NKJ)

So what we are really called to do is love everyone as our neighbor. What I gather from this bible verse is that we should not differentiate how we care for others based on social status, economic background, race, etc…. Instead if we love others as ourselves, then we should treat them exactly as we would like to be treated! This is the Golden Rule:

  Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them..” – Matthew 7:12 (NKJ)

The Golden Rule puts this whole love your neighbor as yourself concept into action. So this all boils down to serving others.  We all remember someone telling us at some point in our lives to help others in need, not because we have to or because we are seeking some reward but because we see a need and in doing so, we are looking beyond situation and circumstance  because of unconditional love.  The same unconditional love that God has for each of us.  Now this is not to say that we could ever fully emulate God, but we are often told that God is our example to follow.  Have you ever heard of  that popular saying, WWJD (What Would Jesus Do)?  So what would He do?  When I think of whom Jesus is…I think of meeting people where they are.   I think of compassion, understanding, love, sympathy, caring, benevolence and concern.   So the most valuable lesson I take from this look at loving your neighbor as yourself is that it is calling each of us to be just as Jesus would be =  kind, considerate and compassionate to others.  It is not sitting in judgment or rejecting folks because they are different.  It is not our place to make assumptions or to criticize others, after all that would contradict what it means to have compassion and understanding and it is this compassion and understanding that  ultimately  is what loving your neighbor as yourself is all about.

So in what ways can you become a better neighbor? How can you enhance your inner compassion and understanding?   Not just to the folks who live next door or on your block but how can you extend the African adage it takes a village to being part of a village that uplifts, upholds, sustains, supports, encourages and empowers ALL?  Living in service to others.

 Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve:
    to give, and not to count the cost,
    to fight, and not to heed the wounds,
    to toil, and not to seek for rest,
    to labor, and not to ask for any reward,
  save that of knowing that we do your will.”
— Ignatius of Loyola

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One response

6 11 2009
JC Conrad-Ellis

This week, the women in my Bible study group spent time condemning gays for seeking equality. One of the more vocal critics is a woman in her mid-70’s. She’s been saved since she was 19 and has a rain man knowledge of the Bible. It’s intimidating challenging her on anything, especially something as controversial as same sex marriage or homosexuality. Disgusted with the self righteous attitudes, I left early wishing I had scripture to counter their comments. While I waited for my child at tae-kwon-do, I poured through the Bible and found scriptures so that I’m armed for battle next week. I prayed for God to order my tongue and protect me as I try to minister against women who don’t see their own bigotry cloaked behind their Bibles. The same Bible that was used to defend slavery. In the end, as your blog encourages, it’s about loving our neighbor as ourself. It’s not our place to judge others. That’s God’s place. We have a responsibility to love and respect each other, that’s it. Anything more is playing God.

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