This is how You Should Love and Live!
One of the most challenging matters in our life is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Love in this sense is a difficult action to undertake, a puzzling thing to practice as some of our neighbors are not nice individuals nor do they intentionally seek our well-being or best interest in life. What makes this matter more paradoxical and urgent is the identity of (some of) our neighbor.
The neighbor could be a poor, an immigrant, an undocumented individual, a prostitute, a murderer, a rapist, a child molester, a stranger, a racist, or someone who has mistreated you or abused someone you love.
In the biblical sense, “to love your neighbor as yourself” is a deliberate commitment, even an imperative. Can you command love? Can you command emotion since love is also an emotion?
To love one’s neighbor means to stand up for the life of one’s neighbor, and to treat him or her (even them) with kindness and justice. To love your neighbor as yourself also means not to mistreat or exploit that individual, but to empower, uplift, and build up that person, and to seek his or her best interest and welfare.
Here’s a more detailed instruction from a biblical perspective on this important matter:
“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God….You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another.You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord……You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord.
You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”–Lev. 19:9-18
Admittedly, it is difficult to love intentionally someone who has caused you misfortunes in life. Can you love a rapist or someone who has raped you, your child, a family member, or your friend? Can you love a child molester? Can you love a spouse abuser? Can you love someone who has assaulted you or caused you profound pain and suffering?
It seems to me love as an imperative is not something one can cultivate on his or her own. It requires repetition and a set of practices. To love in the biblical sense requires divine intervention in one’s life and one’s intentional collaboration with God who can and will empower us to love unconditionally and unreservedly. To love in that manner means to live meaningfully in relation to God and in relation to other people.
Love thy neighbor as thyself sometimes may not be an instantaneous act, but a journey in life that involves growth, maturity, patience, forgiveness, and reconciliation. However, in all things, we must strive to love–intentionally, completely, and unconditionally.