Love your neighbor as yourself
Jesus says this is the second greatest commandment in the law (Matthew 22:39).
Neighborly love includes foreigners: And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself (Leviticus 19:33, 34).
James calls this the royal law! If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you do well (James 2:8).
Why is this command great? Because all of Gods commandments are based on love.
We owe a debt of love to all. Paul writes: Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet, and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8-10). For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Galatians 5:14).
Neighborly love is based on fairness. Jesus says: And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise (Luke 6:31); Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12).
Loving our neighbor as ourselves means that we treat him as we want to be treated. This form of love is based on our mutual humanity. Eve was the mother of all living (Genesis 3:20). God has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth (Acts 17:26). For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself (Romans 14:7).
We are all members of one family, the human race. We are part of a greater whole; we share a common humanity. Thus we ought to love others as we love ourselves and treat others as we want to be treated.
He who despises his neighbor sins (Proverbs 14:21). The evil slave who demanded full payment from his fellow, after he himself had been forgiven a huge debt he could never repay, was asked by his master: Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you? (Matthew 18:33). We owe love to others because of Gods love for us.
We are commanded to empathize with our fellow man, to participate in the feelings of others. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Bear one anothers burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).
Thus says the Lord of hosts: Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother (Zechariah 7:9).
The law of love is an essential component of ethics, not a substitute for ethics, as is claimed by some. Something built on love may not be torn down in the name of love. Since Gods commands are based on love, they may not be pushed aside in the name of love.
God is the sovereign interpreter of the law of love. He created man. He knows what is good for man and for society. His applications of the law of love are found in the Scriptures.
We need guidance from God to know how to love our fellow man. As John says: By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments (1 John 5:2, 3).
We are able to love others as we should, only when we love God and keep His commandments. Loving God and obeying His commands is an essential ingredient of love for others.
Someone who claims that love allows him to disregard moral principles and commandments of God, does not really love others, but is trying to excuse selfish, unloving or unscriptural behavior.
How did Jesus answer a lawyer who knew Gods requirement but was looking for a loophole?
And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said to him, What is written in the law? What is your reading of it? So he answered and said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. And He said to him, You have answered rightly; do this and you will live. But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, And who is my neighbor? (Luke 10:25-29).
This lawyer knew he should love his neighbor, but he wanted a limited circle of neighbors!
Jesus, the Master teacher, responded to his question, Who is my neighbor? with one of the most powerful stories ever told.
A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you. So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?
The lawyer replied: He who showed mercy on him.
Then Jesus said to him, Go and do likewise (Luke 10:30- 37).
Did you notice that Jesus did not answer the lawyers question, but asked him a more important question? So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves? (verse 36).
The question is not, Who is my neighbor? but What kind of neighbor am I?
If we want to inherit eternal life, we must be compassionate, merciful and helpful, like the good Samaritan. We must love our neighbor.
What have we learned?
You shall love your neighbor as yourself is the royal law, the foundation of all of Gods commandments on how to treat others. Love is a debt we owe to all because of Gods love for us.
Neighborly love is based on fairness and our mutual humanity. As members of one human family we ought to love others as we love ourselves and treat others as we want to be treated. Love does no harm to a neighbor.
We can love others as we should, only when we love God and keep His commandments. We need Gods guidance to know how to love others.
What kind of neighbor am I? is the question.
To inherit eternal life, we must be compassionate, merciful and helpful.
The first of all the commandments is: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:29-31). Amen.
The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive