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Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself is Extreme

When a scribe asks which commandment is the greatest, Jesus responds with two:

“The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

— Mark 12:29–31

The second greatest commandment is extreme. Most of us love ourselves a lot, so loving our neighbors as ourselves is exceedingly difficult. And we must also love our neighbor’s children as we love our own children.

Who are our neighbors? Does it include all other humans, or only those in our immediate vicinity? If the latter, we should all become hermits. If the former, we must love all people as we love ourselves.

Jesus also gives a moderate ethical imperative—the Golden Rule. It says:

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”

— Matthew 7:12

I would not expect a stranger to give their life for me. Nor, if I was poor, would I expect someone far away to give me and my neighbors all of their wealth. I would expect them to contribute, somehow. I also would not expect my neighbor to love me as they love themselves.

Quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version.