“Love Your Neighbor As Yourself,” by Andrew J. Schatkin
In his teachings, Jesus of Nazareth said many things in many situations. One of his most thought provoking commandments is found in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. The Disciple Matthew presents in Chapter 19 Jesus as saying. “Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.” Again in Chapter 22 verses 37-39, Jesus says, “thou shalt love thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (verse37). In verse 38, he says, “This is the first and great commandment” and in verse 39 he says, “and the second is like unto it thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.” In verse 40 of the twenty-second Chapter of Matthew, Jesus was said to have noted, “On these two commandments depend all the law and prophets.”
The Evangelist Mark quotes Jesus as saying in Chapter 12, verse30, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy god with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind and with all thy strength.” This is the first commandment.” And in verse 31 Jesus is quoted as saying, “thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself, there is none other commandment greater than this.”
This short little essay proposes to examine certain aspects of Jesus commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. The commandment is somewhat puzzling at first glance since we are told to love our neighbor as ourselves. Perhaps love of self has been incorrectly interpreted. Most probably the meaning of the saying is that we should treat our neighbor with the same respect and consideration with which we regard ourselves.
The second observation about this commandment is, in fact, that it is a commandment. It would appear that the love of neighbor does not come easily to us and so it is commanded. Certainly fallen human nature posits and involves self-love and self-centeredness as opposed to love of our neighbor whom we may not know at all, be indifferent to or not care about at all.
Thus the commandment in its inception is a difficult if not challenging command for human nature to fulfill. Nevertheless, it is commanded and Christians who follow Christ are told that must follow this commandment, showing charity and love to all who may pass us in this life. To love our neighbors as we regard and respect ourselves if not to actually love and give them love is perhaps impossibly difficult and most people can only halfway do it of accomplish it.
The third and most shocking aspect of this commandment is that Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves but does not tell me they will love us back. He merely tells us to do it expecting nothing in return. Again, the commandment is most difficult to fulfill since most human beings look for reciprocity and connection in their relationships.
In sum, this is a commandment we are taught to fulfill and irony of it is that as much as we may love our neighbor there is a good it not even chance we will receive no love in return, This is the Gospel and this is the commandment of the Savior and Redeemer of the world. Perhaps we can best understand this command in light of the Cross event where Jesus, a perfect man and worker of miracles, was executed as a criminal, this man who sinners followed to his death. It is also then that we can understand this command, why it is commanded, and its difficulty.