Love. Your. Neighbor.
Jesus tells a long story to make a point. The moral teachings of the Sacred Scripture boil down to two edicts: Love God. And Love your neighbor. The second command has no caveat, no qualification, no conditions.
Love. Your. Neighbor.
Love your neighbor when they are different. When they do not believe what you believe. When they do not share your values. When they do not vote as you do. When they are from a different race, culture, or even, yes, religion. Love your neighbor when your neighbor is kind. Love when your neighbor is cruel. Love your murderous neighbor. Love your evil neighbor. Love your friends. Love your enemies. We must love everyone.
But…what is love? Tina Turner defined love as a “second-hand emotion”. In our world today love seems to be simply reduced to having affection for someone. Affect is a good start, but love is more than affect. The classical understanding of love, as understood by St. Thomas Aquinas, but even before him the ancient Greek Philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, is to always, everywhere, in all circumstances will the good of the other. Again, we have to define terms. “Good” cannot just mean something that people want. Right now, I want ice cream, but ice cream, while in and of itself, is neither good nor bad, would not be good for me at present, as I am trying to limit my calorie intake for health. “Good” is not just my desire, but for me the “good” is fulfilling the purpose for which I was made. For we are not just blobs of atomic particles floating around the universe, but we have a purpose. Our purpose comes from God, who is the source of all that is good.
Then, if this idea that God is the source of all good, then in order to truly love my neighbor, I must first love God. To love God is a difficult task, based on our classical definition of love. How can I possibly will the good of God who is by his nature, good? I can’t, as He is purely actualized good itself. Therefore, to love God, is to will what God wants. To love God, truly, again is not just the notion of affection, or even less, acknowledging his existence. To love God means to love what God loves, that I will what God wills. Conversely, it means that I do not will what God hates. So, what does God will? He wills the good of all. Which brings us back full circle. To love God is to love my neighbor. The two commands are inseparable.
As Pope Francis states: “To love God is to live of Him, for Him, for what He is and for what He does. And our God is donation without reservations; He is unlimited forgiveness; He is a relationship that promotes and makes one grow. Therefore, to love God means to invest one’s energies every day to be His collaborators in serving our neighbor without reservations, in seeking to forgive unlimitedly and in cultivating relationships of communion and fraternity.”
To love our neighbor, begins, not ends with basic kindness, fraternity and affection. The end, is to will what God wills for them, to love them as God loves them, and in order to do this with the perfection such a mandate demands, we must first love him who has loved us.