Who Is My Neighbor?

KEY VERSE: “Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” —Luke 10:27


JESUS said to his disciples, “Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48) The followers of our Master are thus admonished to take the very highest standard of excellence for their pattern—the loving, perfect Creator. They are to strive for perfection such as his. They are to attain it in their hearts and, so far as possible, let it control every thought, word, and deed of life.

While these high principles were expressed in Israel’s Law, the Jews had gradually lost sight of the high, divine standards it contained, and replaced its precepts with certain traditions which were quite to the contrary. Jesus was accused of setting aside the Law, but he assured them this was not the case; he was merely setting aside human traditions and seeking to establish the Law in the more excellent expression of its spirit of love. The scribes and Pharisees set themselves up as examples of piety and holiness under their concept of the Mosaic Law, but Jesus explained that unless his followers had greater holiness than these doctors of the Law, they would never enter the kingdom of heaven.—Matt. 5:20

The standards of justice laid down for the judges of Israel were expressed as follows: “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”—the exaction of strict justice. This feature of the Law seemed to make the greater impression upon the people, and their distorted application of it cultivated in them a hardness of heart, and an exacting disposition which tended to be pitiless and merciless. Our Lord’s teaching, in showing the error of this, pointed to the Heavenly Father himself—the one who had made the Law—and how he possessed such great mercy which was expressed in the sending of his Son into the world to redeem sinners. (John 3:16,17) How fitting and proper that we imperfect beings, as the recipients of such great mercy, should look to God and from his example learn to be tender-hearted and lenient toward each other.

Tradition taught that neighbors should be loved and enemies hated; but our Lord declared that enemies also should be loved and blessed, even though they might return persecution and injury. This was a new and higher order of teaching, difficult for imperfect man to appreciate. However, for the followers of Jesus, the cultivation of this spirit of love is supremely necessary if they are to find favor as the children of God. Jesus said of God that he sends the sunshine and the rain on the just and the unjust alike.

Thank God that we have found that our Creator does not torment his enemies, and we have found every feature of his great divine plan in complete harmony with the sublime statement of his Word, “God is love!” Applying this great and God-like quality to our lives, Jesus said that if love be extended only to those who love in return, how would it be worthy of any special reward? Do not even the heathen and all men love after this fashion? And if we are courteous merely to those who are courteous to us, wherein are we better than all sinners?

The Apostle James called loving our neighbors as ourselves the fulfilling of the royal law. (Jas. 2:8) Our brethren are our neighbors in the very closest sense; they are the ones who are nearest to our hearts. The Apostle Paul wrote: “Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification.” (Rom. 15:1-3) To please the brethren rightly, is to stir their pure minds to good works, to encourage their faith in God and zeal for the truth, and service to the brethren. It is not always possible to please, but we should strive to do good, and to provoke to love and good works as we have opportunity.

Paul again wrote, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the Law.” (Rom. 13:10) This is the criterion against which one’s motives and actions should be tested. God is the very essence and personification of his law, and his likeness must be developed in us to the point of fixity of character. It must stand the test of endurance and prove faithful under stress, and in the end we will have the unspeakable privilege of showing forth his glory.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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