To a few, it has become a quaint, old-fashioned way of expressing a simple truism of polite society: “Love thy neighbor, as thyself.” One can imagine that it has hung on walls in homes for centuries, either since Jesus said it or Matthew reported it. The verse has been painted, needlepointed, cross-stitched, tattooed and modeled into statues. But what of it? And why did Grandma so cherish the lovely lithograph of it hanging in her kitchen?
To some, it serves as a reminder that we are all human, that we all must remember our shortcomings in excusing those that we see in others. Many might hold the belief that a heart filled with love is impossible to fill with hate. Yet, a quick survey of the national news or throbbing beat of raging social media suggests that to others, no doubt, it represents an oppression of the present hierarchy urging the dissatisfied and disaffected to “know their place.”
Hmm. “I’m absolutely right and you are entirely wrong.” Likely? “If you don’t agree, you are stupid, dangerous and a threat to common decency.” Really? We know how deadly people like you can be.” What?
For reasons too many to count, we find ourselves bursting at the seams. Our relationships strain to process the endless stream of facts and counters pumped into our collective bloodstreams 24 hours per day. How can we love our neighbor? Aren’t they terrible? Aren’t they the problem? Then, are we the answer? Are we worthy? Or, do they see us the same as we see them? Maybe we don’t really like ourselves too much. To love another, do we have to love ourselves first? Or maybe, we like ourselves entirely too much. In a loop of circular logic, is there room for the love of others?