Love Your Neighbor As...

In Matthew 22, Jesus says that the commands to love God with everything and to love your neighbor as yourself are the foundation of all of the other commands in scripture.

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’ Matthew 22:34-40

As far as day-to-day relationships go, then, “loving your neighbor as yourself” is a good litmus test for how we’re doing obeying God.

A friend of mine recently asked me about this. They’ve fought with self-hatred for most of their life, and so when they hear the words “love your neighbor as yourself”, they have difficulty using it as a guide for how they should treat others. If they treated others like they frequently do themselves, it wouldn’t be love!

The difficulty here is that the model changes depending on the person who is applying it. If someone has trouble giving themselves a second chance, or struggles with self-harm, this will factor into their perception of what love is. On the other hand, if someone tries to build themselves up by hiding from and covering up their flaws, that too will affect how they treat others.

The model of loving your neighbor as yourself can and is still helpful. But it is not the end-all be-all. Thankfully, Jesus gives us another model.

A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35

When Jesus says that he’s giving them a “new” command, what does he mean, since they’ve already been commanded to love their neighbor as themselves (i.e “love one another”)? The new command is not just the command to love one another, but to love as he loved. This is a radically higher calling as well as an opportunity. To see how to love each other, we can (and must) look to Jesus as our example.

I’ll leave it to you to examine the gospels and see how Jesus loves. There’s a tad more in there than can be explained in a blog post.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:9-13