How to Love Your Neighbor
(Reprinted from Bread Upon the Waters: Columns From The California Farmer [Fairfax, VA: Thoburn Press, 1974], 3–4.)
A great many preachers have been working a Bible verse overtime these days, as they plead for the grape “strikers” in Delano, the people of Africa, India, Watts, and other points to the left. This much-abused text is Leviticus 19:18: “[T]hou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” If these men are right in their interpretation of the Bible, we had better line up with them. If not, they should be put in their places, as perverters of Scripture.
Now, what does the Bible say about loving our neighbor? First of all, Moses made it clear that it included all men, foreigners, and enemies, and he made it clear that it included any visiting Egyptians in Palestine, even though they were the Israelites’ recent oppressors (Lev. 19:33, 34). We are therefore duty-bound to love our enemies; but what does it mean to love them?
Jesus Christ, and Saint Paul as well, both defined the meaning of love in the Biblical sense: it is the keeping of the second table of the Ten Commandments (Matt. 19:18–19; Rom. 13:8–10). Let us analyze what this means. First, “[t]hou shalt not kill”; my neighbor’s life is God-given, and it cannot be taken apart from God’s law, for capital crimes and in lawful warfare I must therefore respect every man’s right to life. Second, “[t]hou shalt not commit adultery”; I must respect the God-given sanctity of my neighbor’s home. Third, “[t]hou shalt not steal”; I must respect property as a God-given condition of human life, and I must not violate this right. Fourth, “[t]hou shalt not bear false witness”; I must respect my neighbor’s and enemy’s God-given rights not only in word and deed, but in thought as well. In short, as Paul said, “love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10). If we respect all men’s rights to life, home, property, and reputation in word, deed, and thought, we keep this law. We may dislike some men, but if we respect these God-given rights, we keep the law.
This verse, then, is no justification for socialism, for any violation of property rights, for enforced sharing, or for welfarism. Instead, it is the only sound foundation for social order and for civil liberties.
The false preaching of this verse, and others as well, has led to the disintegration of Christian standards and of social order. It has been used to justify all kinds of civil disorder and revolutionary activity. But the Bible is emphatic: “[L]ove is the fulfilling of the law,” God’s law, and godly obedience to human authorities, not disobedience and lawlessness. Our answer to such men should be blunt: “I love my neighbor; I respect his right to life, home, property, and reputation in word, thought, and deed. Why don’t you?” If the subversion of our country is an important matter, and treason a capital offense, what shall we call subversion of God’s Word and treason to His holy order?
Topics: Biblical Law, Justice, Philosophy, Epistles, The, Gospels, The, Pentateuch, Culture