How to "Love Your Neighbor" as God Commands
Mark 12: 30-31: "'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." (NKJV)
"Good Samaritan?" Who is Your Neighbor?
This article uses the parable of "The Good Samaritan" to explore many of the traits the Bible says we need to exhibit towards our neighbors. The Bible says we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. So, since loving self is a prerequisite for loving others, there is hope that we can learn how God desires for us to love and treat other people. Another prerequisite to loving your neighbor is that we must know who it is God sees as a neighbor. A lawyer asked Jesus this very question one day. According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus’ response was this (Luke 10:27-38):
“And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, 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 on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.”
Who is a Samaritan?
The people of Samaria were hated by orthodox Jews of the time. Samarians had broken away from the orthodoxy centuries earlier, and they were considered as “defiled” by those they had left. Therefore, when Jesus told a story about a "Good Samaritan" He cited an example of people who were hated by those he was speaking to, and a man from this hated group as someone who had more compassion in his heart for others than anyone else who passed by and saw the man in need.
Being neighborly, being a "Samaritan," as designed by God, is not about living in a neighborhood and helping those who live near you. In fact, geography related to where you live doesn’t matter at all, because you don‘t have to live next door to someone for him or her to cross paths with you. Your neighbor can be anyone who is nearby, no matter where you are. Being a Samaritan crosses all man-made boundaries, including race, ethnicity, religion, social class, economic class, and any number of other ways we humans separate us, one from another.
God wants us to love one another, and to demonstrate care and concern for each other’s well-being. When we know or cross paths with someone who is ill, if we have the resources or the knowledge to help them heal, God wants us to offer them our assistance. When someone is troubled and needs someone to listen, God wants us to be a good listener. When someone is down on their luck, in need of a helping hand, God wants us to use our resources, when we can, to be as helpful as possible to them. Heartfelt kindness and the ability to empathize, to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, is what it takes to be a good neighbor. Like the “Good Samaritan” in the Gospel of Luke, God wants us to have, and to demonstrate toward one another, an outpouring of love and concern, of compassion and assistance.
How can we know whether or not we are a good and loving neighbor? If we use the parable of the Good Samaritan, we can see many of the traits we need to exhibit towards each other as neighbors. Traits we can see by examining this parable include:
Care and Compassion Demonstrates the Love of God
The Good Samaritan came to the man’s rescue, demonstrating how Jesus came to our rescue. Just like the soul on the road to Jerusalem who was hurt, broken, wounded, and left for dead, so was mankind before Jesus lived and died for us. Jesus showed His love for us by making our well-being His concern. By the same token, He wants us to make each other’s well-being our concern. Just as Jesus came to feel and to alleviate our suffering, He wants us to use our lives to empathize with others, and to help alleviate suffering. Caring, compassion, and helping others all go together.
Neighborly Love Means Unselfish Giving
The Good Samaritan was a person who was headed somewhere; he had a life of his own. He was on the road to Jerusalem, with an agenda of his own. This demonstrates that the needs of others won’t always arrive in our lives at times that are convenient for us.
Still, instead of selfishly considering only his own needs (as the others had done who passed by, neglecting to help the person in need), the Good Samaritan decided that no matter what his needs were, there was someone whose felt needs were more immediate. Then, through a series of unselfish acts of caring and compassion, he demonstrated what it really means to give unselfishly of your time, your resources, and your heart, to someone in need.
On a personal note, I’ve written often in my Hubs, shamelessly, about how I’ve been unemployed or underemployed for about three years. Well now, I’ve had to put my home up for sale (a short sale) because I can no longer pay my mortgage, and I don’t want to go through foreclosure. I’m going through some of the worst financial times of my life, and one day a few months back, my nephew—the fully grown-up son of one of my older sisters—through underemployment and a series of financial setbacks found himself homeless. Even though I am in no position, financially, to host a house guest, when he showed up at my doorstep, knowing I’m his only relative in the area, it was not only my heartfelt compassion, it was my Christian duty to let him in. His “felt needs” for shelter, after all, are more important than my desire for solitude (as a new novelist, I can never have enough or too much “alone” time). He’s now been a guest in my home for two months (I have four bedrooms and 2.5 baths, and have always lived alone). Even though I prefer to live by myself, I have enough room in my home for my nephew, and I could not turn him away in his time of need. I do not charge him rent, because he doesn’t make much money. If I charged him, he’d never be able to save, and I wouldn’t really be helping him to become able to be on his own again. Even though I have very little these days, he has even less, so I find ways to share what little I have with him.
A Purposeful and Neighborly Goal is to Help
A purposeful goal provides a blueprint for accomplishing something. The Good Samaritan’s compassion and unselfish nature led him not only minister to the fallen man’s wounded skin; it also led him to minister to his wounded spirit. The Samaritan helped the man get back on his feet, then carried him to Jerusalem and put him in the care of an innkeeper. He took care of the man. He didn’t just wipe a few bruises as he helped the man to his feet. He demonstrated more than just passing concern. Even as the Samaritan was preparing to leave Jerusalem the next day, he told the innkeeper to continue to help the man at his expense, and he promised to repay the innkeeper.
On another personal note, I wrote another article titled "Accident Angels," where I talked about how a man, a white man, stopped to give aid to my nephew (the same one I mentioned earlier in this article) after an accident on the highway. This man, a total stranger, stopped to help a young black man he did not know, and not only did he help my nephew get his car towed to a repair shop, when my nephew explained he had no money to pay for repairs, the Good Samaritan also paid for more than $700 worth of repairs (link below to the article "Accident Angels"). This story is one reason I know some people truly are angels; they are real-life Good Samaritans.
God wants us to have more than just a passing concern for our neighbors. He wants us to be genuinely concerned about the well-being of those in need. He wants us to give unselfishly in ways we can, to help those who are down with a goal toward bringing them to a higher place.
The teaching of compassion must begin with children ...
Actions Count, Not Religion
In the parable, when the priest and Levite passed by and saw the fallen man, they behaved very differently from the Samaritan. The priest’s inaction demonstrated an age-old truth—that being religious is not synonymous with being righteous. Jesus told this parable, I believe, to illustrate that no matter what might have been on their minds, the first two men did nothing to demonstrate any real concern for a person in need. God wants us to know that the only thing that matters is what we do to help others. Not what we might think or how important it may be to us to be devoted to learning religious philosophy. The fallen man’s needs were real, as was the conscientious and caring help the Samaritan provided.
Another action you and I can perform for our neighbors is something that doesn’t cost a penny, but is ultimately priceless. And that is, to pray for them. Because of their proximity to you, what your neighbors do can also affect you. Therefore, asking God to come into your neighbor’s life is a loving thing to do for them and you, because God can do more for them than you or I ever could.
Good Neighbors Care, One for Another
God created man out of His desire for human companionship. It is because of this, I believe, that God designed mankind to need companionship. He created us to need fellowship with each other. In Genesis, after God created Adam, He desired that man not be alone. Since man was made in the image of God, the Creator knew that loneliness was not a desirable state of being. For this reason, we will never be completely independent as beings, because God made us to be dependent—first on Him, then on each other. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:34-35).
For dependency to work, however, we must have genuine care and concern for one another. That is why God commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Without this love, as naturally self-centered beings, we would soon devour and destroy each other.
The Bible tells us in Romans 13:9 (NKJ), “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.’” Therefore, to keep us from being our own worst enemies, God commands us to love one another as neighbors. God teaches us the nature of love for him in 1 John 4:20-21 where we learn: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.”
God desires for us to live in a world where when one person’s shortcomings begin; another person’s strengths will take over. If everyone were to participate in life according to God‘s plan, neighbors reaching out to each other would literally illuminate the whole world with unselfish and genuine care and compassion. And, as singer/pastor Shirley Caesar sings in the song featured in the video above, "When you add it all up, the total cost of [God's] real love is no charge."
Link provided below for the story about "Accident Angels" that was mentioned in this Article: