The Bible commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. How should I practically implement this? What does it look like to love someone as Christ loves us?
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18) is one of the very well known Biblical precepts. All three synoptic gospels and several epistles repeat the command. Also well known is the story of the good Samaritan. Let’s start with that story to illustrate this precept. There are many valuable lessons that we can learn from this story, but for this present discussion let’s focus on the love the Samaritan shows to the wounded man.
The Example of the Good Samaritan
In the story, we meet a man. Nothing is said about him except that he was going from Jerusalem to Jericho. Was he rich or poor? Was he of high or low status? We are not told. This itself is instructive. For we are told that God Himself shows no partiality, or favoritism (Acts 10:34) Since the man was journeying from Jerusalem he was almost certainly a Jew. This emphasizes the lesson here because, in this case, we would likely expect his fellow Jews (the Levite and the priest) to show mercy. But, the man’s condition evidently did not elicit from them even natural compassion.
Instead, we find that a Samaritan shows compassion and treats the man’s wounds. We remember here that “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” (Jn. 4:9) The prejudice of the Jews for the Samaritans highlights the actions of the Samaritan. This provides another important lesson. Do we refrain from helping those who hate us? This would be natural but certainly does not follow the example of Christ. (Lk. 6:28, Rom. 5:6-8)
The Samaritan takes the wounded man to the inn and pays the innkeeper to take care of the man with the promise that whatever the subsequent cost he will be repaid. Here again, we find another lesson. The Samaritan paid the immediate cost to the innkeeper, but also took on himself the financial obligation for the care of the stranger. This is remarkable and must remind us of the Lord Himself who, as the hymn says,
The protection of His child and treasure Is a charge that on Himself He laid; “As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,” This the pledge to me He made.
1 Corinthians 13
If we look at the famous “love chapter” of 1 Corinthians 13, we find a list of the characteristics of love. Among these are:
- Love is patient and kind
- It does not insist on its own way
- It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
- Love bears all things
These are just a few of the qualities mentioned. So, the question is how much do we demonstrate love to those around us. This is especially important for those that are closest to us. Are we pleasant enough to our friends, but unkind to our own family members? Do we share with those in need? Do we respond with grace when we are criticized? Do we treat others the way we wish to be treated (Matt. 7:12)? The ultimate pattern of love is shown in Christ’s love for us (Jn. 15:13, Rom. 5:8) and we cannot follow a higher example.
A Limiting Guard
It is essential to keep in mind that love is to be the proper motive. This keeps us focused on what is actually good for the person. The world engages in “philanthropy” which tends to be indiscriminate. Showing real love to one’s neighbor requires spiritual wisdom in addition to generosity. All true Christian behavior needs to be characterized by spiritual wisdom. This raises it above anything the world can accomplish or even truly understand.