Who Is My Neighbor?

This question demands a penetrating answer. It presents itself to everyone and lies at the root of human problems.

Just who is my neighbor? The Master was asked this very question. It is related in the tenth chapter of Luke that a lawyer came tempting him and asking what he should do to inherit eternal life. Jesus approved the lawyer's own answer that he must love God supremely and his neighbor as himself. In self-justification the lawyer asked who his neighbor was. Jesus' reply was the familiar and much loved parable of the good Samaritan. At the end he put the question, "Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?" Luke 10:36; Jesus approved the lawyer's reply that it was the Samaritan, he who had shown kindness, and Jesus admonished him to go and do likewise.

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Superficially we may be satisfied to say that the neighbor we are to love is the man who has fallen among thieves, the individual whose path crosses ours and who so sorely needs our compassion and love. Under these circumstances it is not very difficult to love him, but what if he turns out to be ungrateful, antagonistic, dishonest, hypocritical, or hateful? What if he is secretly or openly trying to do us harm? Or perhaps he persists in following a course which is evil or wrong, and which we know will lead to his own destruction; yet he will not listen to correction. Does loving him mean to close our eyes and let the error go unrebuked and unpunished? Does it mean to condone evil or ignore it? Is this love? Does it really help him?

Did not Jesus' reply go deeper? He had just referred to the commandment, "Thou shalt love... thy neighbour as thyself," and then he pointed out to the lawyer that he was to be the neighbor, and that he was to love this neighbor as himself. He was not to see and love his neighbor as an erring or afflicted mortal outside himself. But rather he was to see his own true self in God's likeness so clearly and love it so much that he constantly manifested this self and so was neighbor to others, blessing all within the radius of his thought.

We learn in Christian Science that God is divine Principle; hence Love, a synonym for God, is Principle. Then to be genuine our love must be spiritually impelled, the tender, true, and strong reflection of divine Principle, Love. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, "To love one's neighbor as one's self, is a divine idea; but this idea can never be seen, felt, nor understood through the physical senses." Science and Health, p. 88; Our love for God must be reflected in our love for man. We cannot love God supremely and hate our fellowmen, nor can we truly love our neighbor without understanding God and man's relationship to Him. Only as we demonstrate our own true self in His likeness can we be the neighbor Jesus admonished us to be.

Jesus, our great Exemplar, was the true neighbor. He was so conscious of God as his Father and of his true selfhood as the Son of God that he earned the title of Christ Jesus, or Jesus the Christ. His love of God was demonstrated in his all-embracing love for humanity. His reflection of divine Love enabled him to heal as no one before him had ever healed, yet he never spared evil the sternest condemnation. He likened the Pharisees to sepulchers, outwardly white but inwardly corrupt, and said to them: "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him." John 8:44; He drove the money changers from the temple. His rebuke was never given in anger, nor was it ever an expression of hate. To Nicodemus, the Pharisee who humbly came to inquire of his teaching, he explained the new birth, and to Zacchaeus the Publican, he said that that very day he must abide at his house. So he was neighbor to all mankind.

Mrs. Eddy was the true neighbor. She sacrificed self to give the revelation of Christian Science to the world. Her love for man stemmed from her love for God and the divinity of her love was evidenced in healing humanity. Yet she never spared error strong condemnation. She uncovered it and let Truth destroy it. The Manual of The Mother Church was inspired by her love for her followers. She wrote it for their guidance, correction, and protection. Its By-Laws are not arbitrary demands but timeless reminders of her wisdom, foresight, and love.

We run into error and fail to be the true neighbor when our false sense of love leads us to condone error or when our love is personal or possessive. Ofttimes by glossing over error or seeking to hide it, we deprive another of the very experience which would bring his awakening and liberate him and sometimes ourselves too. But we must remember that a rebuke given in anger springs not from love, nor does it accomplish the purpose of Love.

In an age that is searching for security and world peace, it is important that we learn what true brotherhood is. The twentieth chapter of I Kings offers us a valuable lesson. Here it is recounted that Ahab the king of Israel, was fiercely besieged by Ben-hadad, the king of Syria, who came against him in overwhelming numbers. Through his radical reliance on God, Ahab with his meager but staunchly obedient following won two notable victories. His forces shattered, Ben-hadad fled for his life and hid in an inner chamber in the city.

However, his cunning and treachery were not defeated. He disguised two emissaries and sent them in sackcloth to Ahab to plead for his life. And Ahab, no doubt drunken with victory and mesmerized by a false sense of brotherly love, listened to their plea. Impulsively he cried: "Is he yet alive? he is my 'brother.'' Quickly the emissaries picked up the phrase. "Thy brother Ben-hadad" and presently Ben-hadad himself was sitting beside Ahab in his chariot, and Ahab made a covenant with him. This disobedience and lack of wisdom, this mistaken and unprincipled sense of brotherly love, cost Ahab his kingdom.

We learn in Christian Science that our greatest need is not to be loved, but to love—to be in the highest scientific sense the true neighbor. This requires humility, vigilance, patience, self-abnegation, and obedience. To see another's true selfhood, we must prove what our own true selfhood is. We must constantly live the love which reflects divine Love. Then we shall not be deceived by sin but shall detect it; we shall not condone error but shall heal it; we shall not be callous but kind; and we shall love all mankind with Christly, healing, purifying love.

Mrs. Eddy writes, "To live so as to keep human consciousness in constant relation with the divine, the spiritual, and the eternal, is to individualize infinite power; and this is Christian Science." The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 160.

Here is the neighbor we are not only to love but to be.

The Importance of Persistence
November 18, 1967

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