If you could have it, do you want your neighbor’s love? Think maybe they’d want yours? Imagine the ramifications. Imagine such a world.

Your Neighbor Is Commanded To Love You—Do You Want Their Love?

# 91 on my 99 Life Tips–A List is: You are commanded to love your neighbor, not to trust him.

Do you want your neighbor’s love?

We will look first at love, then at trust, which is only natural since trust is born of love. The commandment to love your neighbor comes from the Judeo-Christian tradition. Jesus called it one of 2 great commandments. The other great commandment is to love God with all one’s heart. The 2nd, Jesus said, is “like it”, that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. If you could have it, do you want your neighbor’s love?

Some questions for you to consider:

  • Is it possible to love God and not love your neighbor?
  • Does “as” mean “like”? Or does it mean that I am to think of and treat my neighbor “as if” they are myself? (If you thought of your neighbor as a “next door” version of yourself, but in a different body, would that change your treatment of them? Presumably for the better?)
  • Do you want your neighbor’s love? (Since they are to see themselves in you, too.)
  • Do you expect your neighbor’s love? And do they have the moral right to expect yours?

An radical imaginary world

A further consideration is to think just how radical the results would be if this most radical commandment in human history was universally obeyed.

Imagine a science-fiction world wherein every neighbor loves every other neighbor. Imagine what that would mean for economics, politics, international relations, even the need for nations at all. 

It would be like some sort of Kingdom of Heaven. Probably just like the one Christians often pray will manifest on earth in accord with the Divine Will (but with fingers crossed behind our backs).

It’s easier to imagine The Martian Chronicles, Star Wars, Dune, and private spacecraft than a world filled with neighborly love isn’t it? It’s one thing to suspend disbelief to imagine Inter-Galactic Confederations and Spice Guilds. We can imagine a Death Star, but it’s quite a leap of imagination to believe in a world practicing universal neighborly love—too wide a leap for most of us. Superman and Catwoman are more believable than that.

It is nice to play “what if” though, is it not? 

Is a belief unpracticed really believed?

I mentioned that this command comes from 2 of the 3 Abrahamic religions. (A similar command may exist in the tenets of Islam, I confess my lack of familiarity with its sacred texts). 

And yet, Christianity (with a few notable exceptions for all too rare individual cases) seems to have showed a 2100-year propensity for missing the point. 

As a believer myself, I’m dismayed that most of us professing belief in Jesus, act as if His day-to-day purpose in our lives is to help us feel better and prosper financially. We comfort ourselves with the belief He will secure our future admission to heaven. We don’t think about His primary daily purpose as empowering us to love our neighbor… the entire world of them.

I’m guilty here, too. My usual prayers focus much more on my needs than on making me better at loving my neighbor.

Sadly, “believers” will give unequivocal assent to the expression “love your neighbor as yourself”, even calling it the “Word of God”, and yet this mere intellectual assent spurs a vastly disproportionate few to become its “practitioners”. The widespread embrace of the idea without widespread accompanying action is a puzzle. As if it only exists to make a nice wall plaque or refrigerator magnet. 

A command radical for its practicality

But this command is imminently practical. And it is imminently radical for its practicality. Because if practiced, you will find yourself in direct conflict with the underlying principles of profit-motive capitalism. And it will radically conflict as well with your cherished political views and reverence for the founders. For instance, how are you to love your neighbor as yourself, yet use your liberty in the pursuit of happiness, unless you also pursue the happiness of your neighbor with equal vigor? 

It becomes immediately apparent how incompatible the pursuit of happiness is with the 2nd great commandment. Unless, of course, you find happiness in loving your neighbor.

In that case, Augustine’s directive applies: “Love, and do whatever you please…”

But seriously, if I am to fulfill this command, how can I do so and not have a regard for my neighbor’s well-being as much as I regard my own, for issues like health care, or mask-wearing, or vaccinations, or universal basic income? Or am I to love my neighbor unless it intrudes on my pet political dogma?

And moving to economic considerations, does the law of love allow me to make as much money as I can, selling items for the most the market will bear, enriching myself at my neighbor’s expense? Can profit-motive co-exist with the love-motive? Does neighborly love not command me to sell as cheaply as I can afford to sell, with regard both to my neighbor’s need of my products and services, and their interest in securing fair value as inexpensively as possible, while still loving myself enough to make a living that will provide for my legitimate necessities?

Economic considerations of neighborly love

Last I checked, I don’t require a private spaceship, or even a seat on one for a space tour. I don’t need to pay myself 299 times more because I’m the CEO than I pay my average employee. (An average of $12.7 million in 2020—during a pandemic). According to the law of neighborly love, these men are villains to be castigated, not heroes to be lauded.

These are fundamental, practical questions. Loving your neighbor is the most radical economic and political philosophy ever espoused. It is the most radical action anyone can take. Universal adoption would topple every government, everywhere, other than to provide and administer infrastructure, health care and maintenance services.

There can be no trust where there is no love

Imagine a science-fiction world wherein every neighbor loves every other neighbor.

It’s too preposterous to imagine, isn’t it? And that’s why we need not bother with the second part of my tip. For in a world in which we cannot reliably expect love from our neighbor, and in which the command cannot compel us to offer it ourselves, there can be no command to trust them. And thus arises the need for governments, with all their accompanying evils, to police the selfishness of humankind. Because in whatever form, they are less evil than unloving neighbors would be to each other without them.

But just for a moment, pretend. Go ahead, hypothesize with me. If you could have it, do you want your neighbor’s love? Think maybe they’d want yours? Imagine the ramifications. Imagine if it started with you and me. 

Love your neighbor as yourself. Right! That’s just way too radical. Crazy, ain’t it?

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