Love God And Your Neighbor

At first, it was not clear what the love of neighbor entailed. There was an evolution in three stages in the history of the people of God.

1st Stage: “Neighbor” is kindred of the same race. The Old Testament already taught the obligation to “Love your neighbor as yourself!” In those long distant days, the word neighbor was synonymous with kindred. They felt obliged to love all those who were members of the same family, clan, or tribe. As for foreigners, that is people who did not belong to the Jewish people, Deuteronomy says, “You may exploit, but you must remit whatever claim you have on your brother (kindred, neighbor)!”

2nd Stage: “Neighbor is anyone I approach or who approaches me. Gradually, the concept of neighbor grew. Thus, in Jesus’ time, there was a great discussion as to “Who is my neighbor?” Some doctors said that the concept of a neighbor had to be extended beyond the limits of race. Others, however, would not hear of this. That is why a doctor went to Jesus with the debated question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied with the parable of the Good Samaritan where the neighbor was not a relative, nor a friend, nor a nobleman, but a neighbor is the one who approaches you, independent of religion, color, race, sex or language.

3rd Stage: The measure of our love of “neighbor” is to love as Jesus loves us. Jesus had said to the Doctor of the Law, "You are not far from the kingdom of God!" The doctor was already close to the Kingdom because, in fact, the Kingdom consists in uniting the love of God with the love of neighbor, as the doctor had solemnly declared in Je-sus’ presence. But to enter the Kingdom he still needed one more step. The criterion for loving a neighbor as taught in the Old Testament was “as yourself”. Je-sus stretches this criterion and says, “This is my commandment, "Love one another as I have loved you! No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends!” The criterion in the New Testament then is “To love one’s neighbor as Jesus has loved us!” Jesus gave the true interpretation of the Word of God.

May the Lord help us to love as he loves.

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