The Bible commands us to love our neighbours as our own self (Leviticus 19:18).
Permit me to quickly point out that the love for oneself stated in Matthew 5:43 is different from what Apostle Paul addressed in 2 Tim 3:2.
In Matthew 5:43 (just as in Leviticus 19:18) we see a love that derives from an understanding and appreciation of the fact that you are made in the image and likeness of God – that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. And being in the likeness of God, you love yourself, knowing that you are defined by who God says you are.
The resultant effect of such awareness/understanding is that you love other humans seeing that all of us are made by the same God.
LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOURS AS YOURSELF – Luke 10:27-37. John 4. Matthew 5:43.
Generally speaking, we tend to love ourselves. We love to take care of our bodies, eat well, rest well, feel comfortable, dress well, satisfy our sensual (things that appease the senses) desires, accentuate our physical features etc.
So, Jesus asks that we show the same amount of care and display of love towards our neighbours.
However, one may also see “love for oneself” as a prerequisite for “love for your neighbour.” That is, the amount of love you have for yourself is the amount or level of love you can give out to your neighbour.
Simply put, you can’t love another if you don’t love yourself. The absence of love for oneself makes it difficult for you to love others. This point is very critical seeing that not everyone loves himself/herself.
Take a look at the people who have deep racial, ethnic, tribal and religious biases. A good number of them lack self-love and the understanding of the concept of neighbourhood.
As such they tend to project or display externally their deep-rooted self-hate. If they can’t find an immigrant to hate, they’d hate someone from a different part of the same country. If they can’t find them they’d hate a family member, a colleague etc. And sometimes they hate everyone indistinctly.
Their lack of this understanding that we ALL are created by a loving God leads to hatred for their neighbours.
You see, as children; we’re innocent, full of love, we are colour and religion-blind; encouraging and desiring the best for one other. Then, growth or rather a regression happens, and we become beasts, hating everyone including the people of our household.
The Good Samaritan
It’s instructive to know how people lived in Palestine, at the time when Jesus was reiterating this command in Matthew 5 verse 43.
In Palestine, there were no farmhouses scattered over the agricultural areas; the people, gathered in villages, went to and fro to their business. So, domestic life involved a wider range of people than simply a few neighbours living in the same farmhouse or near farmhouses.
So, the original Greek word for ‘neighbour’ has a broader range of meanings than what we understand as a neighbour in English today.
In response to a question by a lawyer, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 verses 27 through 37. In those scriptures, Jesus gave a perfect description of who a true neighbour is:
From that parable, we see that a neighbour isn’t a rigid religious folk depicted by the priest and the Levite. These men arrived at the scene of the incident, saw a half-dead man but still were unmoved. Maybe they were trying to avoid legal pollution. But what’s the use of strict and blind obedience to the law before a half-dead man needing treatment?
Features of a true neighbour
A true neighbour is not insensitive or uncaring but compassionate;
He doesn’t come around just to hear stories, see gory sights and ignobly passes no. Rather, he lowers himself to the ground – to the level of the wounded and hurt and dresses his painful wounds.
A good Samaritan doesn’t look down from his high horse but comes down to the level of the needy. He is always humble;
He helps the helpless and cares for the dying;
The words of a true neighbour are soothing and his actions bring healing;
A good Samaritan uplifts and doesn’t tear down. He doesn’t cause further hurt;
A good neighbour is disposed to sully his hands in a bid to help;
Human lives are sacrosanct to a good Samaritan, ethnicity notwithstanding.
He endangers his life seeing he could fall into the same predicament that befell the hurt – He takes the risk of being waylaid by the same thieves. In fact, that way that led from Jerusalem to Jericho is called the “bloody way” because of the robbers that constantly operate along that route;
A true neighbour willing to share his private space/horse with the undeserving;
He doesn’t care about your background nor beliefs. He’s only after another child of his Father (God);
A good Samaritan loves, cares and spends without asking for anything in return;
My neighbour is anyone that is created in the image of God. And seeing that every human is God’s creature, makes every one of us neighbours.
I pray for healing upon our hearts. I pray for this understanding of how we all came into existence. I pray for true self-love and I pray for love towards all mankind irrespective of background.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10.