The Great Commandment

By Caleb Hong, Spiritual Life Co-Division Head.

The “love your neighbor” theme is super prevalent in today’s Christian circles. It’s the topic of books, songs, devotions, and sermons. But what does it really mean to love our neighbors?

The scripture behind “love your neighbor” is Matthew 22:36-40:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

It’s important to note that Jesus gives two commands in response to the young man’s question: love God and love your neighbor. To love God seems pretty vague and ambiguous, but it leads to the second command. 1 John 4:21 says “And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

And so we come back to “love your neighbor”. But what if they’re really annoying or mean? What if you actually utterly despise said neighbor? After all, love isn’t something that can be forced.

C.S. Lewis said “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” I really love this quote because it captures the kind of unconditional love Christ had for us. When we’re told to “love our enemies,” we come to a dilemma. They’re our enemies because we hate them. But if we were to show unconditional love and act towards everyone as if we loved them, we’ll come closer to the example that Christ gave us.