by Samuel Lim
“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 neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
Loving ourselves is easy, it comes naturally. The apostle Paul said, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” (Ephesians 5:29). The challenge here is to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. How can we do this?
Who is our neighbour?
The common perception is our neighbour is the person living next door. Someone who lives in the close proximity of our community. However, what Jesus really meant was everyone – all of mankind.
“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 neighbour to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:30-37)
The Jews during that time considered the Samaritans to be enemies from a foreign land. Yet the Samaritan had compassion for the Jew who was robbed. He even extended a helping hand. Jesus made it clear that to “love your neighbour” is to love all people, even your enemies.
How should we love our neighbours?
It is very difficult to love someone who acts in such a way that is hateful towards us. That, in addition to our innate nature to prioritize ourselves over others, make it seem impossible to fulfil this commandment.
A basic framework is to treat others as you would want to be treated. “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12)
We also find our answer in the first part of Jesus’ command – that is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. When we focus all of our love toward God, our selfish hearts are transformed into a heart capable of loving others. We grow to recognize everyone is a part of his creation and that God desires all would be saved. (1 Timothy 2:4) We must truly love others to desire their salvation just as He does.