Loving our Neighbor
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. Matthew 5:43
suggested further reading: Leviticus 19:9–18
It is astonishing that the scribes in Jesus’ day came to such a point of absurdity that they limited the meaning of the word neighbour to benevolent persons. Nothing is more obvious or certain than that God, in speaking of loving our neighbor, is referring to the entire human race.
Every man by nature is devoted to himself. When we interrupt personal convenience to show acts of kindness, we depart from the kind of action that nature itself dictates. So, to encourage the exercise of loving others, God assures us that all people are our neighbors because they are related to us by nature. Whenever I see another person, I must of necessity behold myself as in a mirror, for that person is “my bone and my flesh” (Gen. 29:14). Though most people tend to break away from this kind of unity, their depravity does not violate the order of nature, for God is the author of brotherly love.
Hence we conclude that the precept of the law, by which we are commanded to love our neighbor, refers to all people. The love that God requires in his law does not look at what a man deserves but extends to the unworthy, the wicked, and the ungrateful. Now we see the true intent of this verse: to show that Christ restores and vindicates us from malicious falsehoods concerning God’s law. He does not introduce a new law but corrects the wicked excesses of the scribes, by which the purity of the divine law had been corrupted.
for meditation: When have you resisted helping people in trouble, saying they brought it on themselves? Have you shunned those who are ungodly or cut off those who are ungrateful? Rather than limiting the law, as the scribes did, let us be challenged by Christ’s teaching to extend love to anyone in need.