Here's an article exploring the idea of loving one's neighbor: Jesus says to love your neighbor as yourself by Andrew Conard. In the article, the author expands the idea of loving one's neighbor to a larger context called "neighboring," and it's worth a read, because it includes many more than just the person who lives next door, and addresses a growing problem in our society: loneliness.
This very well-known mandate given by Jesus to his followers is one that we'd like to make comment on, because Jesus expanded the idea of "neighbor" too...and we'll do that in the blog below. But first, here's a little snip of the author's very good thoughts:
"Neighboring is a movement to reclaim community, keep isolation at bay, bolster public health, stimulate the economy and transform community-based institutions like the church. And the research backs it up.
"Times Magazine featured a Brigham Young University study which compiled multiple projects resulting in a dataset of over 3 million people over 30 years. They found, "the feeling of loneliness increases risk of death by 26 percent."
"This number is greater than risks associated with smoking and cancer. The New York Times reports, 'Since the 1980's, the percentage of American adults who say they're lonely has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent.' "
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Who is my neighbor?
Most Urantia Book readers will remember this statement from Paper 140: The Ordination, where Jesus attempts to make clear to the apostles the hallmarks of the Kingdom of Heaven. This one has to do with the social aspects of the kingdom, and it encompasses many more than those in our immediate vicinity:
140:8.11 3. Social attitude. The Jewish rabbis had long debated the question: Who is my neighbor? Jesus came presenting the idea of active and spontaneous kindness, a love of one's fellow men so genuine that it expanded the neighborhood to include the whole world, thereby making all men one's neighbors. But with all this, Jesus was interested only in the individual, not the mass. Jesus was not a sociologist, but he did labor to break down all forms of selfish isolation. He taught pure sympathy, compassion. Michael of Nebadon is a mercy-dominated Son; compassion is his very nature.
Everyone - everyone - is our neighbor; each one our spiritual sibling under the Fatherhood of God. So, as we go about our lives we might do best by ministering to our siblings one at a time as "a friend and neighbor, an understanding comrade," in any way that we can, as Jesus did. Knowing these disturbing statistics on loneliness, we might be even more motivated to seek out our suffering siblings. It's a practice that was very important to Jesus:
138:8.9 The disciples early learned that the Master had a profound respect and sympathetic regard for every human being he met, and they were tremendously impressed by this uniform and unvarying consideration which he so consistently gave to all sorts of men, women, and children. He would pause in the midst of a profound discourse that he might go out in the road to speak good cheer to a passing woman laden with her burden of body and soul. He would interrupt a serious conference with his apostles to fraternize with an intruding child. Nothing ever seemed so important to Jesus as the individual human who chanced to be in his immediate presence. He was master and teacher, but he was more—he was also a friend and neighbor, an understanding comrade.
The parable of the good Samaritan is a powerful story - well-known and well-loved for good reason. It contains the ideal of being a good neighbor...even when that neighbor may not be someone you might oridinarily have fellowship with. In the case of the Samaritan, he ministered with true compassion to one who was not of his clan, and who may have even disliked him under normal circumstances. And down through the ages, we love this story because it contains a high ideal that resonates within the heart.
103:5.2 This idea-ideal of doing good to others—the impulse to deny the ego something for the benefit of one's neighbor—is very circumscribed at first. Primitive man regards as neighbor only those very close to him, those who treat him neighborly; as religious civilization advances, one's neighbor expands in concept to embrace the clan, the tribe, the nation. And then Jesus enlarged the neighbor scope to embrace the whole of humanity, even that we should love our enemies. And there is something inside of every normal human being that tells him this teaching is moral—right. Even those who practice this ideal least, admit that it is right in theory.
Reading about the origin of ideals can inspire each of us to new heights of service and love for our fellows.
193:1.2 Said Jesus: "The acceptance of the doctrine of the fatherhood of God implies that you also freely accept the associated truth of the brotherhood of man. And if man is your brother, he is even more than your neighbor, whom the Father requires you to love as yourself. Your brother, being of your own family, you will not only love with a family affection, but you will also serve as you would serve yourself. And you will thus love and serve your brother because you, being my brethren, have been thus loved and served by me. Go, then, into all the world telling this good news to all creatures of every race, tribe, and nation. My spirit shall go before you, and I will be with you always."
Who did Jesus tell us we should minister to?
The weak, the poor, and the young
The sick and afflicted
We are called to strengthen those who are fainthearted and fear-ridden and
Comfort the downcast
A Crisis of Modern Life
In the article above, we see that loneliness is at epidemic proportions, and that it affects people tremendously. We might at one time have thought of loneliness as an affliction of the old, but not these days. If 40 % of us feel lonely (according to the article above), that is many, many people! Sometimes, if we're aware, we can see this in the eyes of the people who we meet as we pass by.
Are YOU lonely?
If you're reading this piece and thinking that you are lonely, too, maybe it's a good time for you to discover God in The Urantia Book... discover your constant companion who walks with you through every step of your life. And once you do discover that great Friend, you, too, will be overflowing with love that you'll want to share with others. Start HERE and HERE for an amazing discovery of that Friend who lives right within you, right now. The following statement is a great promise!
117:6.27 But no God-knowing mortal can ever be lonely in his journey through the cosmos, for he knows that the Father walks beside him each step of the way, while the very way that he is traversing is the presence of the Supreme.
What to do? As a very practical action, there are programs we can volunteer for, such as Meals on Wheels, or Volunteers of America...if you want to be part of a program in your community, it's pretty easy to find local groups who have programs in place by just doing a Google search for your area. In this way, you can be channleled to those in need pretty easily, if you are minded to do so. Even if you find yourself in a sad, lonely state, reaching out to someone else in need can lift your spirits as nothing else can!
How to minister as we pass by, as Jesus did
Jesus was never in a hurry. He had time to comfort his fellow men "as he passed by." And he always made his friends feel at ease. He was a charming listener. He never engaged in the meddlesome probing of the souls of his associates. As he comforted hungry minds and ministered to thirsty souls, the recipients of his mercy did not so much feel that they were confessing to him as that they were conferring with him.
Most of the really important things which Jesus said or did seemed to happen casually, "as he passed by." There was so little of the professional, the well-planned, or the premeditated in the Master's earthly ministry. He dispensed health and scattered happiness naturally and gracefully as he journeyed through life. It was literally true, "He went about doing good."
Read more helpful info about how Jesus ministered " as he passed by." It contains more clues about how we can go and do likewise.
Ideas: How to get the right attitude
Not all people are easily loved; not all people come across as loveable or even in need of your kindness or concern. Sometimes, when someone is afflicted with loneliness or is sad or depressed, they may not respond to our attempts to help as we might hope. But these passages might help each of us to gain a wider perspective and help us to, first, understand:
2:4.2 The better man understands his neighbor, the easier it will be to forgive him, even to love him.
100:4.4 In physical life the senses tell of the existence of things; mind discovers the reality of meanings; but the spiritual experience reveals to the individual the true values of life. These high levels of human living are attained in the supreme love of God and in the unselfish love of man. If you love your fellow men, you must have discovered their values. Jesus loved men so much because he placed such a high value upon them. You can best discover values in your associates by discovering their motivation. If someone irritates you, causes feelings of resentment, you should sympathetically seek to discern his viewpoint, his reasons for such objectionable conduct. If once you understand your neighbor, you will become tolerant, and this tolerance will grow into friendship and ripen into love.
In the mind's eye conjure up a picture of one of your primitive ancestors of cave-dwelling times—a short, misshapen, filthy, snarling hulk of a man standing, legs spread, club upraised, breathing hate and animosity as he looks fiercely just ahead. Such a picture hardly depicts the divine dignity of man. But allow us to enlarge the picture. In front of this animated human crouches a saber-toothed tiger. Behind him, a woman and two children. Immediately you recognize that such a picture stands for the beginnings of much that is fine and noble in the human race, but the man is the same in both pictures. Only, in the second sketch you are favored with a widened horizon. You therein discern the motivation of this evolving mortal. His attitude becomes praiseworthy because you understand him. If you could only fathom the motives of your associates, how much better you would understand them. If you could only know your fellows, you would eventually fall in love with them.
You cannot truly love your fellows by a mere act of the will. Love is only born of thoroughgoing understanding of your neighbor's motives and sentiments. It is not so important to love all men today as it is that each day you learn to love one more human being. If each day or each week you achieve an understanding of one more of your fellows, and if this is the limit of your ability, then you are certainly socializing and truly spiritualizing your personality. Love is infectious, and when human devotion is intelligent and wise, love is more catching than hate. But only genuine and unselfish love is truly contagious. If each mortal could only become a focus of dynamic affection, this benign virus of love would soon pervade the sentimental emotion-stream of humanity to such an extent that all civilization would be encompassed by love, and that would be the realization of the brotherhood of man.
Refuse to take offense
In all of our interactions with our neighbor - which is everyone - we always run the risk of conflict - especially these days, it seems. Sometimes, the advice of Jesus can be difficult to practice; these suggestions by Jesus are among those that can be challenging, but nevertheless, it is wonderful advice that Jesus gave to his apostles, and advice that works today as well as it did then:
140:3.14 "I am sending you out into the world to represent me and to act as ambassadors of my Father's kingdom, and as you go forth to proclaim the glad tidings, put your trust in the Father whose messengers you are. Do not forcibly resist injustice; put not your trust in the arm of the flesh. If your neighbor smites you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. Be willing to suffer injustice rather than to go to law among yourselves. In kindness and with mercy minister to all who are in distress and in need.
"I say to you: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who despitefully use you. And whatsoever you believe that I would do to men, do you also to them.
"Your Father in heaven makes the sun to shine on the evil as well as upon the good; likewise he sends rain on the just and the unjust. You are the sons of God; even more, you are now the ambassadors of my Father's kingdom. Be merciful, even as God is merciful, and in the eternal future of the kingdom you shall be perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect.
"You are commissioned to save men, not to judge them. At the end of your earth life you will all expect mercy; therefore do I require of you during your mortal life that you show mercy to all of your brethren in the flesh. Make not the mistake of trying to pluck a mote out of your brother's eye when there is a beam in your own eye. Having first cast the beam out of your own eye, you can the better see to cast the mote out of your brother's eye."
At the same time, pray for discernment...
"Discern the truth clearly; live the righteous life fearlessly ... You have heard it said: `If the blind lead the blind, they both shall fall into the pit.' If you would guide others into the kingdom, you must yourselves walk in the clear light of living truth. In all the business of the kingdom I exhort you to show just judgment and keen wisdom. Present not that which is holy to dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample your gems under foot and turn to rend you."
157:2.2 And when the feelings of service for your fellow men arise within your soul, do not stifle them; when the emotions of love for your neighbor well up within your heart, give expression to such urges of affection in intelligent ministry to the real needs of your fellows."
A simple agenda
We certainly should never go out looking for trouble; instead we who are privileged to know God in our hearts; those of us who have experienced God's love...this should make us eager to demonstrate and share that love to all with whom we are in contact, always keeping in mind that we are simply ambassadors of the Kingdom, sharing its beauties with anyone who happens to be before us. Those beauties include the knowledge that we are all connected, that there is joy and peace available for everyone, that we are all part of the great family of God. Knowing our place in this family should help us all to become sincerely friendly and emit an aroma of inclusiveness for all.
We need have no agenda but that. This can be as simple as sharing a cheerful smile to one who appears sad, preoccupied...or even angry. A smile is always reassuring and can open the door to further contact. And if a smiling countenance is the most we can do, it is enough, because that smile will lighten the heart of its recipient and possibly open them to further contact.
And so...here are the points we've covered:
discovering the scope of true neighborliness;
discerning just who we might be on the lookout for as a neighbor who may need us - especially the lonely;
sincerely trying to understand that person and his/her needs; and
taking care to never take offense if rebuffed or rejected in our efforts.
We must keep trying and never give up as we "go about doing good" to all of our neighbors. With sharing the love of God as our motivation, we'll always find inner satisfaction.
Finally, for the most wonderful example of a selfless, compassionate, and forgiving human being, you need go no further than PART IV of The Urantia Book: The Life and Teachings of Jesus. It's the most valuable knowledge you can ever have!