Ps Tan Hui Ru

Love Your Neighbour as Yourself

The Bible tells us to love our neighbours as ourselves (Mark 12:31, Lev 19:18). We all know this. It’s one of the two greatest commandments in the Bible, and it summarises the whole of God’s law together with “love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul”. In theory, we all also know what it means – treat others like how we want them to treat us. In other words, be nice, act fairly, even go the extra mile. Treat others with forbearance, forgiveness, humility, extend to them grace upon grace upon grace.

Sometimes I wonder if the issue isn’t so much that we don’t know what love means, but that we don’t know who these “others” are. Who are our neighbours? Again, we all know that the Samaritan is the one who was the neighbour to the injured man on the road (Luke 10:29-37) and that tells us that neighbours are not defined by ethnicity or any other division we can think of. Neighbours are those around us, those to whom we act with love and mercy.

“Neighbours” is actually a really inclusive term, but we do have a tendency to think of “neighbours” as anyone outside of our specific group of people. There is a value in that, because then we intentionally try to love them. But it also does mean that we then automatically exclude anyone inside our specific group of people from this category of “neighbours.” Think about it, even just within our own families, they see both the best and the worst of us – we tend to forget to love our own families as our own neighbours. And this extends to our church family as well. When we think about “love our neighbours”, we think about loving people outside the church, and we forget to love our neighbours inside the church. We forget that those inside the church are sinners as much as those outside the church, and they too need to be loved, treated with forbearance, forgiveness, humility, with grace upon grace upon grace extended. And we forget that as much as we love those outside the church family, they have eyes to see how we treat each other inside our own church family, which shows our truest selves and our truest beliefs. Do we love each other inside the church as ourselves, as our neighbours? That is a gauge for how true our love for our neighbour is – when our guard is down and we know we’re stuck with each other; do we still love one another? Is our community still one that others would wish to join?