Love Your Neighbor as Yourself 

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For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Galatians 5:13-14) 

St John of Kronstadt writes: 

“’Thou shalt love Thy neighbor as thyself.

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We ought to have all things in common. As the sun, the air, fire, water, and earth are common to us all, so ought also (in part) food and drink, money, books, and (in general) all the Lord’s gifts to be shared in common; for they are given in common to all, and yet are easily divisible for distribution amongst many.  For we have nothing of our own, but everything belongs to God. And it is not just for the rich to keep their superfluity in their treasuries when there are so many poor people in need of the means of existence, of necessary clothing and dwellings. However, it is just that the laborious should enjoy abundance, and that the idle should endure poverty and misery. Therefore, if we know that some are poor only through their own idleness and laziness, with such we are not obliged to share the abundance earned by our labor. “If any man will not work,” says the Apostle Paul, “neither let him eat.” But the crying poverty arising from old age, exhaustion, from sickness, from fruitless and badly paid labor, from really difficult conditions of life, from a numerous family, from bad harvests, we must always hasten to help, especially those of us who are rich. We must be guided by the history of the times of the Apostles, by the example of the early church…

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Bear in your heart continually, the words, ‘Christ is Love,’ and endeavor to love all, sacrificing for the sake of love, not only your possessions, but even yourself. 

Lord! Teach me to bestow charity willingly, kindly, joyfully, and to believe that by bestowing it I do not lose, but gain, infinitely more than that which I give. Turn my eyes away from hard-hearted people who do not sympathize with the poor, who meet poverty with indifference, who judge, reproach, brand it with shameful names, and weaken my heart, so that I may not do good, so that I, too, may harden my heart against poverty. O my Lord, how many such people we meet with! Lord, amend works of charity! Lord, grant that every charity I bestow may be profitable, and may not do harm! Lord, accept Thyself charity in the person of Thy poor. Lord, deign to help me to build a house for the poor in this town, concerning which I have already many times prayed to Thee, the all-merciful, almighty, most wise, wonderful!   (A Treasury of Russian Spirituality, pp 403-405) 

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St Basil the Great comments further on the Gospel command to love our neighbors saying that even actions that otherwise might be allowed by Scripture might not fulfill Christ’s command concerning neighbors: 

That the proof of not having the love of Christ for one’s neighbor is doing anything that harms or grieves his faith, even if the act itself is allowed by the letter of the Scriptures. (ON CHRISTIAN ETHICS, p 115) 

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The failure to love the neighbor is a failure to obey Christ. Love of neighbor is to guide all our thoughts and activities. We cannot use as an excuse for failing to love our neighbors that we were busy being pious and doing other things allowed in Scripture. If our behavior “harms or grieves” our neighbor’s faith, then we are not acting in love. 

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8-10) 

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