What Loving My Neighbor Means
"The entire law is summed up in a single command: Love your neighbor as yourself." Galatians 5:14
Some people cannot make out what it means to love their neighbor, according to the commandment. Jesus explained it in telling us what the good Samaritan did for the wounded man in Luke 10. He showed mercy on him. He did just what the man needed to have done. He did not merely say, "I am sorry for you," but got off his donkey and gave him practical help. He did not give him merely temporary help and then leave the man lying in the road while he hurried on to look after his own affairs. He gave himself altogether to caring for the sufferer until he had him out of danger. He carried him to an inn. Even then he did not merely leave him at the door to be cared for by the innkeeper — but stayed with him and looked after him all night.
Love means twice as much when it serves with its own hands.
There is still another element in the help the good Samaritan gave, which added to the measure of neighborly love. In the morning he was required to leave the wounded man, to proceed on his own journey. But even now he did not consider that he had done all he should do for him. So he provided for his care as long as the man should need care, not rolling the responsibility off himself upon any other, nor using the necessity for his departure for the terminating of his ministry on the man's behalf. He would be unable longer to care for him in person — but he assumed all that the man would yet need to have done for him as part of his own unfinished duty of love. He gave money to the innkeeper, asking him to take care of the wounded man until he had entirely recovered. Even yet he was not content. He would leave no possible contingency of need unprovided for, so he said to the innkeeper, "The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'"
This was love indeed, love filling its measure full. Many men would have felt that they had certainly done all that was required of them when they had helped the unfortunate sufferer through his great stress of need, getting him to the inn and caring for him overnight. They would have said that others should now do their share. But the good Samaritan did not stint the measure of his love in any such way. He did not seek to get rid of the responsibility he had assumed, even when he had done all that he could stay to do with his own hands; he counted the care of this man his own, until he was entirely restored, and he would provide for all that he might need.
This, we are to remember, was our Lord's own interpretation and illustration of loving our neighbor. This is the way we are to love him. We are to stop at no cost. We are not to do for him merely what he needs, and barely what will carry him through his stress; we are to be generous in our love and in our helping.
There is another of our Lord's words which indicates the same duty: "Whoever shall compel you to go one mile, go with them two." Even for exacting people, who selfishly demand our service — we are to do twice as much as they ask.
That is the way God helps us — he blesses us not in a stinted way — but abundantly. He does for us far more than we ask him to do. He supplies every need of ours according to his riches in glory.
We represent God in this world, and we are to help as he helps, never niggardly — but always generously and abundantly.
The lesson appears all the stronger and the more beautiful when we remember that it was a Samaritan who here loved his neighbor and that the neighbor was a Jew — an enemy. It is natural and easy for us to do loving and kindly things for our friends — for a friend some would even dare to die; but the love we are taught to show must be ready to serve enemies.
It was thus that Jesus interpreted the ancient law: "You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say unto you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you." We must notice, too, the word Jesus uses. He does not say, "Tolerate your enemy, or be patient with him," but "Love him." Not to do an enemy any harm, just to pass by him and let him alone, would be easier. But that is not the way the law reads. It is "Love your enemy."