The commandment to “love they neighbour as thyself” is used seven different times throughout the Bible. (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 19:19, Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14, James 2:8)
In St. Matthew 22:35-40 Jesus tells a lawyer that “all the law and the prophets” hang on two commandments. “Love they neighbour as thyself was second only to, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind).”
Quite possibly the same lawyer (wishing “to justify himself“) asks Jesus in St.Luke chapter ten, “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus goes on to tell him the story of ‘The Good Samaritan‘. In this story we find that those who should have felt obligated to help a man of their own religion and nationality (who had been robbed, and badly injured) neglect to do so. Then someone he would have probably avoided even speaking to (because of racial and religious prejudice) had he not been in his current circumstances, goes out of their way to help him at the expense of their own time and finances.
Geographically, religiously, doctrinally, and racially ‘The Good Samaritan‘ was not his neighbor (even though those who passed him by were), but Jesus asks this lawyer, “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
The lawyer wisely answers, “He that shewed mercy on him“. Then Jesus tells him to, “Go, and do thou likewise.”
1 John 4:20 tells us that, “If a man say, ‘I love God’, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?“
Who is your neighbor? Is it the family member closest to you? The person on the pew beside you in church who sees things the same as you doctrinally? Those of the same color, religion, or nationality as you?
Who should we help? Those who we know can return the favor someday? Those who can do something in return to help our position in the church, or at work, or in society? Those who believe exactly the way we do?
“If ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” (St. Luke 6:32-36)