I have a problem with ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’

About a week ago one of the church’s senior adults asked if he could speak to me. In his words he had a “problem” with the biblical command “love your neighbor as yourself”. His problem, as he explained it, was that he didn’t obey the command. For example, he was willing to help his neighbor(s) in any number of ways but only to the point that it didn’t affect his schedule; he was willing to consider the interests of his neighbor but not to the same degree that he considered his family’s interests. Simply put, the needs and interests of his neighbors weren’t elevated to the level of his (or his family’s) needs and interests.

He wasn’t comfortable with his disobedience nor was he trying to justify his behavior. Rather, the root of his “problem” lay in the perceived impossibility of fulfilling the command. To really love his neighbor as himself seemed unrealistic. He had mentioned this to several others and had listened to their reassurances but nothing he heard seemed to alleviate the tension. I imagine he was encouraged to reconsider the meaning of “love” for that particular demand or that the directive was never intended to diminish the greater love held in reserve for one’s family.

Regardless of what he heard, none of the explanations were satisfactory–they all seemed to undercut the plain meaning of Scripture. So how do you respond to a Christian who essentially tells you “I understand the command but I don’t seem to obey it (even when I try)”?

to be continued…

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Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Associate pastor for education at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian and theological Luddite. A student of one book.

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