The Beauty of Loving Your Neighbor As Yourself
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” It’s one of the two Great Commandments that keep us on track with the Savior’s teachings. Loving God first, then spreading that love to those around you, is the gold standard for interacting with all of God’s children.
With that in mind, here’s our insight on how the Savior taught—and lived—the Second Great Commandment.
Where Does the Bible Say to Love Your Neighbor?
In Matthew 22:36-40, a Pharisee asks Jesus about the greatest commandment. Jesus’ answer was profoundly simple and simply profound: “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second commandment is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Fast-forward two millennia, and the Savior’s example is still changing hearts. Jesus preached unconditional love—the no-strings-attached kind that doesn’t demand anything in return. It’s a challenge that dares us to venture outside our comfort zone. We’re encouraged to offer grace to the “ungraceful” just as God has offered His grace to us.
1 John 4:19: “We love Him because He first loved us.”
How Jesus Loved His Neighbors (Everyone)
“Neighbor” means not just those at a close distance, but other people whom God wants close to Him.
Jesus’ love knows no bounds. He broke down social barriers, sitting where He “shouldn’t,” speaking to those He “shouldn’t.” He sat with the people everyone else deemed unworthy of love: tax collectors, Samaritans, sinners, and others on society’s fringes. The Savior’s love defied social norms because everyone is a child of God.
Open your heart wider so others can feel His love. Looking through a Christ-like lens dispels pride and gives us clarity to see the worth in every soul. Through Christ’s eyes, we see worth and dignity; it’s the spark for building relationships rooted in mutual respect.
Feeling how others feel is key to loving like the savior. Jesus is a master of empathy, a shining example of how to emotionally connect, head-to-heart, with the people we cross paths with.
Instead of handing out quick fixes and empty platitudes, the Savior gets on our level, experiencing our highs and lows, fears and joys. He’s the ultimate companion in struggle, and that kind of soul-deep understanding laid the groundwork for some life-changing moments.
Just think of His healings: He touched the unclean, stood by the marginalized, and offered restoration with a hug or a hand. An empathetic touch or word can act like a salve, soothing pain and binding up broken spirits (see Proverbs 15).
Giving Grace Freely
Remember the story of the adulterous woman? Instead of judgments, He showered her with grace. He gave her a fresh start because she knew how important she was. Next time we run into those who’ve tripped up, remember the Savior’s Example. Don’t just give second chances, but help others find genuine growth through Christ. Offer advice and healing, but especially listening, because love’s power is best felt when it’s tangible and genuine.
When the Samaritan saw someone on the roadside, he immediately offered the physical and emotional healing the wounded man needed. Imagine how much we could love if our first thought was to be Christ-like: more patient, more humble, more forgiving.
Jesus loves us so much that He made it possible to find Grace by laying down His life for us. Our attempts at mending fences and healing wounds should echo that sacrificial love, reminding us that no relationship is beyond His power to restore.
The Art of Foot-Washing
We sometimes speak of the “Body of Christ” as the believers we interact with. What could the Body of Christ be without constant, supportive acts of love?
Jesus made it abundantly clear that greatness in His Kingdom is not marked by how many serve you, but by how many you serve. Whether He was healing, feeding, or simply being there, He helped everyone get through their experiences, even non-believers He saw struggling (see also the account of healing the soldier’s ear on the night of His betrayal).
Remember when Jesus, the King of Kings, bent down to wash His disciples’ feet? He set aside His agenda, and His reputation—which were surely greater than anyone else’s who’s ever lived—to kneel and serve. But Jesus wanted us to learn that putting others first is the key to a culture of love.
The story of the widow’s mite shows that even small acts can have big impacts, particularly when amplified across a community of believers. Today, our contributions to global charities, missionary works, or even simple acts like sponsoring a child from a disadvantaged background, can be our widow’s mite—a small act with a ripple effect.
How Loving Your Neighbor Is Also Loving God (and Vice Versa)
The greatest commandment is to love God with all your soul, heart, strength, and mind. But our Savior gives us another important commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Keep in mind that loving God with all your strength is the greatest commandment because unless you do that, you won’t be able to love your neighbor. Love of neighbor depends on whether you love God with all your might. Only when you love God with all your heart will that love overflow into your other relationships.
If you look at the call to love your neighbor as a result of the overflow of your love for God, this commandment becomes clearer. God doesn’t only ask us to love our neighbors. He says you should love your neighbors as you love yourself. However, how do you love yourself? You can do that by fulfilling the First Commandment, where Jesus asks you to love God with all your might.
If the fulfillment of loving yourself hinges on loving God with all your heart and being in a close relationship of love with Him, then you love your neighbor as yourself by drawing them into a relationship of love with God, too. There’s nothing greater you can do that’s more loving to others than acting as a bridge between them and God. And the more you serve as that bridge between your neighbor and God, the more you fill God’s commandments.
Love of neighbor and love of God are connected. Thus, you can’t love God rightly if you don’t love your neighbors, especially your colleagues, and Christians, and you can’t say you love your neighbors if you don’t love God (1 John 4:20). As you grow in your sanctification, you’ll find yourself loving God and your neighbors more and more. If you don’t love God and your neighbors as biblically defined, you aren’t living a life that pleases God, your creator.
Thus, to fulfill God’s commandments and love your neighbor as you love God and vice versa, you must commit yourself to a wholehearted love of God and let that love overflow to everyone you encounter daily. Love is contagious and should consume everything you do and who you are.
How Do I Love When it’s Difficult?
It’s easy to love people who love us back, isn’t it? The tricky part is extending love to those who are difficult to deal with or even downright hostile. Jesus didn’t say “Love your neighbor if they’re easy to love.” He simply said, “Love your neighbor,” full stop.
As always, Jesus was a perfect example of perfect love. If we’re serious about loving our neighbors, we need to do as He did—cross boundaries, defy stereotypes, and forge unity in a divided world.
The Healing Power of Saying “I Forgive You”
We’ve all been there—hurt, angry, stewing in resentment. But Jesus calls us to a higher path: the path of forgiveness. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” That’s not just poetic; that’s a commandment. When we forgive, we’re opening the door to healing and peace for the forgiver and the forgiven.
We all remember that Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek. It’s a revolutionary concept that subverts our instincts. When we choose kindness in the face of hostility, we flip the script. Suddenly, the story isn’t about conflict; it’s about a love so radical, it’s disarming. Reconciliation should be the goal of all Christ-like love.
See the Person, Not Just the Problem
Think about Zacchaeus, the tax collector who was ostracized by everyone around him. Jesus saw through the societal labels and glimpsed the potential for redemption in him. When we’re faced with difficult individuals, we also need to look beyond the surface. There’s often more to the story, and sometimes your act of love could be the plot twist someone needs for change.
To truly live out Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves, even when it’s hard, means digging deep into the reservoirs of grace He’s provided. It means loving actively, consistently, and sacrificially, just as He did. No matter how challenging it may be, this is the kind of love that not only changes us but has the power to change the world around us.
Service as a Form of Praise
If you ever wonder whether your small acts of service matter, think of Jesus and the cross. His entire life, culminating in the sacrifice of His own life, was an act of service, an offering, a form of worship. When we serve, we’re doing more than good works; we’re composing our own worship song, resonating with the melody of God’s love for us.
Caring for Yourself
Loving ourselves is not just a psychological necessity but a Christian imperative. The command to “love your neighbor as yourself” presupposes a love for oneself that is healthy, balanced, and rooted in the love of God.
We often forget that just as Christ extends grace to us, so too should we offer it to ourselves. Jesus often spoke of the Father’s immense love for humanity. Acknowledge that you are a recipient of that divine love.
Embracing God’s love fortifies our self-esteem and empowers us to extend a more genuine and effective love to others. Guarding against self-criticism and judgment keeps us able to love our neighbors unconditionally.
Self-Care as an Act of Worship
Jesus himself took time to withdraw, pray, and recharge. Taking care of your own physical, emotional, and spiritual needs helps us love others well. When our well-being is attended to, our ability to serve others becomes a joyous outpouring rather than a burdensome obligation.
Emulating Christ is a transformative journey. It means embracing the love and grace God has for us and extending it outward. It demands a servant’s heart, a forgiving spirit, and an empathetic outlook. It calls us to be our best selves—not just for our sake but for the sake of a world in desperate need of Christ’s love.
Jesus called his followers the ‘light of the world.’ In a world often clouded by hatred, greed, and despair, the love we show is a lighthouse guiding others toward hope, compassion, and ultimately, Christ.
Our quest to love our neighbor as ourselves is a life-long journey fraught with both challenges and incredible opportunities for spiritual growth. Jesus Christ provided not just the teachings but also the perfect example to guide us in this journey. As we strive to live in a Christ-like manner, we are essentially weaving a tapestry of grace and compassion that can envelop the world.
For more insights and practical tips on how to incorporate these teachings into your daily life, feel free to visit us at Church.org. We are committed to helping you come to our Savior, Jesus Christ, in every possible way.