“You Must Love Your Neighbor as Yourself”
“The second [commandment] is this: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’”—MATT. 22:39.
1, 2. (a) What did Jesus say was the second greatest commandment of the Law? (b) What questions will we now consider?
TO TEST Jesus, a Pharisee once asked him: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” As noted in the preceding article, Jesus replied that “the greatest and first commandment” is: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” Jesus added: “The second, like it, is this: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’”—Matt. 22:34-39.
2 Jesus said that we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Thus, we do well to ask: Who really is our neighbor? How can we show neighbor love?
WHO REALLY IS OUR NEIGHBOR?
3, 4. (a) With what illustration did Jesus answer the question: “Who really is my neighbor”? (b) How did the Samaritan help the man who had been robbed, beaten, and left half-dead? (See opening image.)
3 We may think of a neighbor as a person living nearby who is a close and helpful friend. (Prov. 27:10) But consider what Jesus said when a certain self-righteous man asked him: “Who really is my neighbor?” In response, Jesus gave the illustration of the neighborly Samaritan. (Read Luke 10:29-37.) We might expect that an Israelite priest and a Levite would act like good neighbors when they saw a man who had been robbed, beaten, and left half-dead. However, they passed him by without doing anything for him. The man was helped by a Samaritan—an individual who belonged to a people who respected the Mosaic Law but for whom the Jews had contempt.—John 4:9.
4 In an effort to help with the healing process, the neighborly Samaritan poured oil and wine on the injured man’s wounds. The two denarii left with the innkeeper for the man’s care amounted to about two days’ wages. (Matt. 20:2) So it is easy to see who proved to be the real neighbor of the wounded man. Jesus’ illustration surely teaches us to show compassion and love for our neighbor.
5. How did Jehovah’s servants show neighbor love during a recent natural disaster?
5 It is often difficult to find compassionate people like the neighborly Samaritan. Especially is this so in these critical “last days” when multitudes have no natural affection, are fierce, and lack a love of goodness. (2 Tim. 3:1-3) For instance, critical situations may develop during a natural disaster. Consider what happened when Hurricane Sandy struck New York City late in October 2012. In one hard-hit section of the city, looters preyed on residents who were already suffering because of a lack of electricity, heat, and other necessities. In the same area, Jehovah’s Witnesses organized a program that enabled them to help one another as well as others. Christians do such things because they love their neighbor. What are some other ways to display neighbor love?
HOW WE CAN SHOW NEIGHBOR LOVE
6. How is our preaching work related to being neighborly?
6 Offer people spiritual help. We do this by endeavoring to direct their attention to heartening “comfort from the Scriptures.” (Rom. 15:4) Unquestionably, we are being neighborly when we share Bible truth with others in our preaching activity. (Matt. 24:14) How privileged we are to proclaim the Kingdom message from “the God who gives hope”!—Rom. 15:13.
7. What is the Golden Rule, and how are we blessed for following it?
7 Follow the Golden Rule. This rule is expressed in these words spoken by Jesus during his Sermon on the Mount: “All things . . . that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them. This, in fact, is what the Law and the Prophets mean.” (Matt. 7:12) When we treat others as Jesus counseled, we act in harmony with the spirit behind “the Law” (Genesis through Deuteronomy) and “the Prophets” (the prophetic books of the Hebrew Scriptures). From such writings it is clear that God blesses those who show love for others. Through Isaiah, for instance, Jehovah said: “Uphold justice, and do what is righteous . . . Happy is the man who does this.” (Isa. 56:1, 2) We are indeed blessed because we act in a loving and righteous manner toward our neighbor.
8. Why should we love our enemies, and what may happen if we do so?
8 Love your enemies. “You heard that it was said: ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’” said Jesus. “However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you, so that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens.” (Matt. 5:43-45) The apostle Paul made a similar point when he wrote: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.” (Rom. 12:20; Prov. 25:21) According to the Mosaic Law, a person was to help an enemy to free his animal that had fallen under its load. (Ex. 23:5) By working together in such a way, former enemies might become good friends. Because Christians show love, many of our enemies have softened their heart toward us. If we show love for our enemies—even rabid persecutors—how happy we will be if some of them embrace true Christianity!
9. Jesus said what about making peace with our brother?
9 “Pursue peace with all people.” (Heb. 12:14) Of course, this includes our brothers, for Jesus said: “If . . . you are bringing your gift to the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, and go away. First make your peace with your brother, and then come back and offer your gift.” (Matt. 5:23, 24) God will bless us when we show love for our brother and take prompt action to make peace with him.
10. Why should we not be faultfinders?
10 Do not be a faultfinder. “Stop judging that you may not be judged,” said Jesus, “for with the judgment you are judging, you will be judged, and with the measure that you are measuring out, they will measure out to you. Why, then, do you look at the straw in your brother’s eye but do not notice the rafter in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Allow me to remove the straw from your eye,’ when look! a rafter is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the rafter from your own eye, and then you will see clearly how to remove the straw from your brother’s eye.” (Matt. 7:1-5) What a powerful way to tell us not to criticize the small faults of others when we ourselves may have very large faults!
A SPECIAL WAY TO SHOW NEIGHBOR LOVE
11, 12. In what unique way do we show love for our neighbor?
11 We want to show love for our neighbor in a unique way. Like Jesus, we preach the good news of the Kingdom. (Luke 8:1) Jesus commissioned his followers to “make disciples of people of all the nations.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) By doing our part to fulfill that commission, we try to help our neighbor to leave the broad and spacious road that leads to destruction and get on the cramped road leading off into life. (Matt. 7:13, 14) There is no question that Jehovah blesses such efforts.
12 Like Jesus, we help people to become conscious of their spiritual need. (Matt. 5:3) In the case of those who respond favorably, we play a role in filling that need by sharing with them “God’s good news.” (Rom. 1:1) Those who embrace the Kingdom message become reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 5:18, 19) By preaching the good news, then, we truly are showing neighbor love in a vitally important way.
13. How do you feel about sharing in our activity as Kingdom proclaimers?
13 Through effective return visits and home Bible studies, we have the satisfaction of helping people to conform to God’s righteous standards. This may result in quite a change in a Bible student’s lifestyle. (1 Cor. 6:9-11) It is heartwarming, indeed, to see how God helps those “rightly disposed for everlasting life” to make needed changes and come into a close relationship with him. (Acts 13:48) In the case of many, despair is thus replaced by joy, and undue anxiety by confidence in our heavenly Father. How good it is to observe the spiritual progress made by new ones! Do you not agree that it is a blessing to demonstrate love for our neighbor in this special way as Kingdom proclaimers?
AN INSPIRED DESCRIPTION OF LOVE
14. In your own words, mention some aspects of love covered at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
14 In dealing with our neighbor, putting into practice what Paul wrote concerning love can prevent many problems, can result in happiness, and can bring us God’s blessing. (Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.) Let us briefly review what Paul said about love and see how we can apply his words to our relationship with our neighbor.
15. (a) Why should we be patient and kind? (b) For what reasons should we avoid jealousy and bragging?
15 “Love is patient and kind.” Just as God has shown patience and kindness in dealing with imperfect humans, we need to be patient and kind when others make mistakes and are thoughtless, or even rude. “Love is not jealous,” so true love will not allow us to covet another person’s possessions or privileges in the congregation. Moreover, if we have love, we will not brag or get puffed up with pride. After all, “haughty eyes and an arrogant heart—the lamp that guides the wicked is sin.”—Prov. 21:4.
16, 17. How can we act in harmony with 1 Corinthians 13:5, 6?
16 Love will cause us to behave in a decent way toward our neighbor. We will not lie to him, steal from him, or do anything else that would violate Jehovah’s laws and principles. Love will also prevent us from looking out only for our own interests instead of showing concern for those of others.—Phil. 2:4.
17 Genuine love is not easily provoked and “does not keep account of the injury,” as though we were making entries in a ledger when others do something unloving. (1 Thess. 5:15) Were we to hold a grudge, we would not be pleasing God and would, in effect, be tending a smoldering fire that could flare up, harming us and others. (Lev. 19:18) Love makes us rejoice with the truth, but it will not allow us to “rejoice over unrighteousness,” even if a person who hates us is mistreated or suffers some injustice.—Read Proverbs 24:17, 18.
18. What do we learn about love from 1 Corinthians 13:7, 8?
18 Consider Paul’s further definition of love. He said that love “bears all things.” If someone offends us but asks for forgiveness, love moves us to forgive him. Love “believes all things” in God’s Word and makes us grateful for the spiritual food we receive. Love “hopes all things” recorded in the Bible and prompts us to give others reasons for our hope. (1 Pet. 3:15) We also pray and hope for the best outcome in trying circumstances. Love “endures all things,” whether these are sins committed against us, persecution, or other trials. Moreover, “love never fails.” It will be displayed by obedient humans throughout all eternity.
KEEP ON LOVING YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF
19, 20. What Scriptural counsel should move us to keep on displaying love for our neighbor?
19 By applying the Bible’s counsel, we can continue to show love for our neighbor. Such love embraces all people, not just those of our own ethnic background. We also need to remember that Jesus said: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:39) Both God and Christ expect us to love our neighbor. If we are not sure what to do in a certain situation involving our neighbor, let us pray for God to guide us through holy spirit. Doing so will result in Jehovah’s blessing and will help us to act in a loving way.—Rom. 8:26, 27.
20 The command to love our neighbor as ourself is called “the royal law.” (Jas. 2:8) After referring to some commandments of the Mosaic Law, Paul stated: “Whatever other commandment there is, is summed up in this saying: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does not work evil to one’s neighbor; therefore, love is the law’s fulfillment.” (Rom. 13:8-10) So we need to keep on showing neighbor love.
21, 22. Why should we love God and our neighbor?
21 As we meditate on why we should show love for our neighbor, it is good to reflect on Jesus’ statement that his Father “makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good and makes it rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:43-45) We need to display love toward our neighbor, whether he is righteous or unrighteous. As noted earlier, an important way to show such love is to share the Kingdom message with him. What blessings are in store for our neighbor if he responds to the good news with genuine appreciation!
22 We have many reasons for loving Jehovah without reservation. There are also numerous ways for us to show love for our neighbor. By displaying love for God and for our neighbor, we are showing respect for what Jesus said about these vital matters. Above all, we are pleasing our loving heavenly Father, Jehovah.