‘Loving our Neighbours? Not a problem really; perhaps we don’t seem to see a great deal of them; but we would always be there for them if there was a problem; they probably would be for us too, hopefully.
We begin this Sunday, a mini series of sermons and thinking about ‘Loving our neighbours’, looking at Jesus’ answer to the questions ‘Which is the greatest commandment?’ and next week, ‘Who is my neighbour?’
The fact that Jesus included loving one’s neighbour as oneself certainly takes the issue way beyond what the relationship we have with our physical neighbours. Indeed in one of the gospel accounts, the question of loving one’s neighbours as oneself arose from an earlier question to Jesus of ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’
Jesus’ response to the greatest commandment question was not to select one of the Ten Commandments but to draw together two other commandments from the Old Testament so that we are charged with loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and our neighbours as ourselves. Clearly therefore, our responsibilities towards our neighbours (however we define them) are on a par with our responsibilities towards God.
In a book I was reading as I prepared for my talk at the 8.00am service this Sunday (the first Sunday after Easter) it said ‘It means that to God we must give a total love, a love which directs our thoughts and a love which is the dynamic of our actions.’
Loving God is clearly not just keeping an eye open for him and hoping he will do the same for us; nor, I suspect, is loving our neighbours as ourselves.