Love Thy Neighbor

 

It is when we have the most cause to hate and reject our neighbors that we most need to remember the command to love them. Yes, my fellow Christians, it is a command and not merely an invitation. Though no challenge could be so difficult to fulfill, it is the foundation rather than the pinnacle of Christian love. It is a challenge not reserved only for the holiest saints but rather put to every one of us. Our Lord and Creator doesn’t even stop there. “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

A philosophy professor and friend once caught me off guard by claiming that the Golden Rule is nothing special. Any person raised in a good home knows not to mistreat others as oneself doesn’t want to be abused.

But that is not Christ’s teaching. He doesn’t merely advise us to avoid mistreating others. Nor does He advocate a “live and let live” philosophy by which we may comfortably ignore our neighbors (though free will is an important pillar of Christian theology). We are called to actively, attentively, love our fellow human beings as we love ourselves.

Typically, that is more than one loves anybody else. Even if you have a spouse or child to whom you are utterly devoted, there are times when that person asks for help and your first thought is “But I’m tired / I’m hungry / I’m in the middle of something / I don’t have enough to share.” Sometimes a person dear to you could use a smile, but you grimace or yawn. To love that person requires surrendering something of yourself. The selfish impulse must be fought again and again, every day, every hour.

Have you ever tried to love a stranger that much? Have you ever tried to love a jerk that much? Have you tried to love an enemy that much?

Here again, having experienced a loving family helps. You’re stuck with them. Sometimes family drives you nuts and take every ounce of energy from you. But they are family, forever. They are your gift, your duty, your life.

If one doesn’t learn unconditional love in family, one might never learn. It’s glorious. It will drain you dry, then overflow with blessings. Sometimes it breaks your heart. But a bond that cannot be broken is never without hope.

Parents of wayward children never stop hoping, never stop trying to teach and to reconcile. Though hurt deeply and often, a loving parent endlessly waits for the prodigal child to return home. Such love doesn’t just forgive and forget. Such love is eager to be peacefully together again. No sacrifice is too great for an honest and loveful reunion.

That is the challenge: to love eagerly, with one’s whole heart, with all one’s energy, with endless hope and endless charity, with joy and thanks. To love thy neighor as thy self.

We are condemned by the Law, but saved by the Resurrection. That means not one of us is worthy to live in God’s house, yet many have been invited anyway and Jesus has paid our price.

That is the love a Christian owes every fellow human being. They don’t need to earn our love. They may reject it, like we so often reject God’s ways. Love them anyway. Love them all.

I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. —John 13: 34

If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. —1 John 4: 20

It is hard. It is exhausting. It is life ever-lasting.

As a wise child once said, “God bless us, everyone.”

Published in Religion & Philosophy
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  1. Paddy S Member
    Paddy S
    @PaddySiochain
    • #1
  2. Dr. Jimmy Carter Member
    Dr. Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    My most favorite Ricochet post ever. 

    It ain’t easy. It takes discipline and practice. 

    • #2
  3. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    Thank you for the reminder.  

    • #3
  4. DonG (Biden is compromised) Coolidge
    DonG (Biden is compromised)
    @DonG

    Aaron Miller: We are called to actively, attentively, love our fellow human beings as we love ourselves

    Indeed.  Christianity is an aspirational religion, where we are called to do more.  It is one of my favorite things about being a Christian. 

    • #4
  5. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    We, including me, are called to pray for Donald Trump, and to have compassion for him.  Richard Epstein has a remarkable podcast on the tragedy of Donald Trump which does personalize him.  https://ricochet.com/podcast/the-libertarian/the-last-days-of-donald-trump/

    • #5
  6. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Aaron Miller: Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

    I love everybody as much or more than myself.  I don’t necessarily love myself that much so this is fairly easy.

    • #6
  7. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Not only are we to love our neighbor:

    But love your enemies and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil people.

    Luke 6:35

    • #7
  8. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller: Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

    I love everybody as much or more than myself. I don’t necessarily love myself that much so this is fairly easy.

    Yeah, love is a special kind of challenge for people who struggle to love themselves. But self-hate is similarly unmerciful, uncharitable, and disrespectful of God’s glorious designs.

    He loves all of His creations. We should too. That doesn’t mean liking everything and everyone distorted by sin and evil. It means wanting to like them and trying to; trying to recognize bits of beauty and excellence and hope. 

    One great thing about a spouse, like yours, is that it proves there must be something worth the trouble. ;)

    • #8
  9. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Say a prayer for those who did not grow up in loving households and loving communities. Many develop pitiful and twisted understandings of love because they are bombarded by pale distortions.

    The Lord is interested in all His creations and offers everyone a chance to know love (His own nature) better. Because He is a loving Father, He delights in seeing one child help another. Prayer is one opportunity the Lord gives us to participate — even when we are sick, tired, or quarantined. 

    And say a prayer for your enemies in hope that you will not always be enemies. Love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” —1 Corinthians 13

    • #9
  10. CRD Member
    CRD
    @CRD

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Not only are we to love our neighbor:

    But love your enemies and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil people.

    Luke 6:35

    You and Aaron are so right; but to be honest, I’m having a difficult time, more difficult than usual, following this teaching. Thank you for your reminder!

    • #10
  11. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    This is a beautiful post – sorely needed right now.  I know that most of my neighbors are conservative for the most part – all very nice.  We have two entrances and at the second entrance two neighbors have had those Love Your Neighbor – Black Lives Matter yard signs at their driveways since before the election. It’s the sign with the different colored fists in the air. As tempting as it is to remove them, everyone has left them there. We have to get along and as you said, show respect. 

    Politics have divided friends, families, co-workers, in so many ways. People aren’t speaking – everyone is arguing. Technology has divided us – and we know what God did to The Tower of Babel. Thank you Aaron for your thoughtful post.

    • #11
  12. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    I mentioned recently the Christian ethic of “self-sacrifice.” But, that isn’t quite right, is it?

    One of our recent popes said love is “self-donation.” Gift of self. It is willing the good of the other with your whole being. Jesus didn’t condescend with low expectations, did he? Thankfully, he didn’t ask of us anything he wasn’t willing to give us the grace to accomplish. 

    Thanks for the post, Aaron.

    • #12
  13. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    I mentioned recently the Christian ethic of “self-sacrifice.” But, that isn’t quite right, is it?

    One of our recent popes said love is “self-donation.” Gift of self. It is willing the good of the other with your whole being. Jesus didn’t condescend with low expectations, did he? Thankfully, he didn’t ask of us anything he wasn’t willing to give us the grace to accomplish.

    Thanks for the post, Aaron.

    It is the nature of God (nature being an inadequate human word, but the best I can do) to give. Since all things are from him, why would he take? For us to be imitators of God, or God-like ( more inadequate human words) we must give also. What we give is from Him and He will backfill into us to replace and more than replace what we have given.  I don’t know if I explained that well, but that’s how I understand it.

    • #13
  14. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    I mentioned recently the Christian ethic of “self-sacrifice.” But, that isn’t quite right, is it?

    One of our recent popes said love is “self-donation.” Gift of self. It is willing the good of the other with your whole being. Jesus didn’t condescend with low expectations, did he? Thankfully, he didn’t ask of us anything he wasn’t willing to give us the grace to accomplish.

    Thanks for the post, Aaron.

    So make the self-donation. Stick around. 

    • #14
  15. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    I mentioned recently the Christian ethic of “self-sacrifice.” But, that isn’t quite right, is it?

    One of our recent popes said love is “self-donation.” Gift of self. It is willing the good of the other with your whole being. Jesus didn’t condescend with low expectations, did he? Thankfully, he didn’t ask of us anything he wasn’t willing to give us the grace to accomplish.

    Thanks for the post, Aaron.

    So make the self-donation. Stick around.

    You made me laugh! I need to make my donation irl these days. There’s plenty to do. But, thanks for the encouragement.

    • #15
  16. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    Two thoughts. First, I agree that he didn’t say it would be nice if you loved your neighbor. He said, “Do it”, as a command. 

    Second, in today’s culture the word “love” is associated with a somewhat superficial emotion. One can’t make himself/herself feel something, so it seems that his definition of love is more related to how one behaves toward his neighbor. One can manage that sort of thing, even if he wouldn’t willingly spend much time with his neighbor when he didn’t have to.

    • #16
  17. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Django (View Comment):

    Two thoughts. First, I agree that he didn’t say it would be nice if you loved your neighbor. He said, “Do it”, as a command.

    Second, in today’s culture the word “love” is associated with a somewhat superficial emotion. One can’t make himself/herself feel something, so it seems that his definition of love is more related to how one behaves toward his neighbor. One can manage that sort of thing, even if he wouldn’t willingly spend much time with his neighbor when he didn’t have to.

    Yes, “willing the good of the other” — especially when it costs you isn’t the easy “be nice” ethic our woke/pc culture promotes. Sometimes willing the good of the other entails correcting a person whose choices are leading to the abyss. If it costs you at times (especially popularity), you’re probably doing it right.

    • #17
  18. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    This Pints With Aquinas podcast offers an excellent discussion in which Scott Hahn argues that the Christian duty to love is public as well as private. Politics is a form of ethics which inevitably proceed from religion and religious morality (by which I mean morals dependent on fundamental assertions about the nature of reality and of humanity). 

    • #18
  19. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    I have nothing to add.  That was a great post to read this Sunday.  I just wanted to say thanks, Aaron.  

    • #19
  20. Tom Wilson Member
    Tom Wilson
    @TomWilson

    Dr. Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    My most favorite Ricochet post ever.

    It ain’t easy. It takes discipline and practice.

    Yes is takes discipline and practice, and even then I’m unable without grace, or God’s enabling power. It is particularly difficult for me when my political passions are involved. This doesn’t absolve me from loving those I disagree with. In fact I can be much more effective in convincing others by showing respect and trying to understand their concerns. 

    • #20
  21. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Thank you Aaron.  I really appreciate it.  In my set prayers I have one where I express my love to God “with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my being.”  And then I ask Him to “help me love my neighbor as myself.”  I ask Him for the help because it is easy for me to love God, but my goodness it is impossible to love my neighbor as myself without His grace.  It is impossible to do that on ones own.  And yes it is a commandment.  

    • #21
  22. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    This Pints With Aquinas podcast offers an excellent discussion in which Scott Hahn argues that the Christian duty to love is public as well as private. Politics is a form of ethics which inevitably proceed from religion and religious morality (by which I mean morals dependent on fundamental assertions about the nature of reality and of humanity).

    By chance I had caught that episode of Pints With Aquinas!  Well it’s good to know someone else listens to that podcast.  I can’t say I catch every episode but I do catch ones with interesting guests, and you can’t have a more interesting guest than Scott Hahn.

    • #22