When asked what is the greatest commandment, Jesus responds by saying love of God and love of neighbor are the greatest commandments. It’s a saying that’s easy to assent to but difficult to live out. One important thing about the love that Jesus is talking about is that it is not a feeling. It’s an act of the will. It’s doing the loving thing in any situation, regardless of how we feel. It’s about moving from the head (our understanding) to our heart (what we deeply feel to be true) to our hands (how we act).
The parable of the Good Samaritan shows us how easy it is to walk by, to ignore, to be self-absorbed, to simply not care. It can often be difficult to know what the loving thing to do is. I find this to be particularly true when interacting with people who have a very different outlook from me on politics, science, ecology, religion, race relations, etc.–all the cultural issues of our time which engender such polarization of our society and demonization of anyone who has a different outlook. These people are also my neighbor.
Loving our neighbor as ourself can be expressed in voting for people who are best capable of loving God’s people (everyone)and promoting just legislation. We can also express love of neighbor by speaking up against hateful speech, denial of basic human respect because of one’s race, religion, gender, or ethnic background, attitudes that tear people down rather than build them up.
In the end, we love God not because we are commanded to. We love God because God has already loved us. Our response to being loved by God is to love back.
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)