Love your neighbour

Jesus said love your neighbour. This seems to be widely misunderstood, despite Jesus making himself clear in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

The first thing to realise is that throughout most of history, neighbourhoods tended to be functional communities of people who interacted with each other in a positive way and were often related. It is mainly in dysfunctional modern society that you get people with nothing in common placed together. Hence it is perhaps surprising that Jesus anticipated this situation with his parable.

Your “neighbour” you are called to love is someone who participates in your community, feels some kind of bond to you and others in the community and tries to help make things better for the community. As in the parable, the person might not be of exactly the same race or religion as you, although there is of course nothing wrong with organising a community along racial or religious lines. You are NOT required to love random people next door you don’t know or people the government is bringing in to destroy your neighbourhood or whatever. They are not what is mean by your “neighbours”.

The Bible also calls for you to love your neighbour as yourself. This means that once you have decided someone is a member of your community, there should be some element of unconditionality to your wishing the best for them, just as you presumably want the best for yourself, even if you don’t always live up to your own standards.

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