5.2.2 Love for our neighbour–love for our fellow human being

"You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Leviticus 19: 16-18). The Mosaic Law primarily defines neighbours as members of the people of Israel. It was only within this framework that the commandment at first applied. However, it was also extended to protect foreigners living in the country of the Israelites (Leviticus 19: 33-34).

The Son of God combined the commandments contained in Leviticus 19: 18 and Deuteronomy 6: 5 into the double commandment of love (Matthew 22: 37-39).

The example of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37) demonstrates that Jesus repealed this restriction on the commandment to love one's neighbour–which previously applied only to Israel. On the one hand, He defined one's neighbour as anyone in need of help. The parable does not specify whether He was talking about an Israelite or a Gentile: "A certain man went down from Jerusalem ..." On the other hand, one's neighbour can also be the person who provides help–in the parable he belongs to a nation held in contempt by the Israelites, a Samaritan. It becomes clear that the moment one person interacts with another they become neighbours. Our neighbour can therefore be any person with whom we come into contact.

This allows us to conclude that the domain within which the Ten Commandments (Decalogue) are valid is to be extended, and that they now apply to all human beings.

Most of the Ten Commandments have to do with one's neighbour (Exodus 20: 12-17). This is underscored by the fact that, when He addressed the rich young man, the Son of God placed the commandment to love one's neighbour on the same level as a number of commandments from the Decalogue (Matthew 19: 18-19).

Apostle Paul considers the prescriptions concerning one's fellow man to have been summarised into the commandment to love one's neighbour (Romans 13: 8-10). This insight is based on the Lord's statement that the double commandment of love encompasses "all the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 22: 37-40). This statement is also found in the Sermon on the Mount, in connection with the "golden rule": "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 7: 12).

Any human being can be the neighbour of another. Just how seriously Jesus takes this can also be inferred from the Sermon on the Mount, in which He even exhorts the people to love their enemies.

Love for our neighbour prompts us to show compassion to all who are in need of compassion, even our enemies. In practice, love for one's neighbour is demonstrated, for example, in unselfish efforts to benefit others, primarily those who are disadvantaged in one way or another.

Followers of Christ are not only called upon to practise neighbourly love in earthly matters, but also to refer others to the gospel of Christ. This is love "in deed and in truth" (1 John 3: 18). Our intercessions for the departed are also to be seen in this context.

"You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Matthew 22: 39)–these words of Jesus give human beings the right to think of their own interests. On the other hand, the Lord places a clear limit on egoism, and exhorts us to treat all our fellow human beings with love.

Practised love for one's neighbour in any form deserves high regard. The more it is exercised, the more distress will be alleviated, and the more harmoniously structured our coexistence will be. The doctrine of Jesus Christ illustrates that love for one's neighbour comes to full fruition through love for God.

See also