Loving God by loving neighbor

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

MAKE no mistake about this. If we truly love God, we also should love our neighbor who can be anybody and everybody. This truth of our faith was highlighted when in the gospel a scholar asked Christ what he had to do to gain eternal life. (cfr. Lk 10,25-37)

When Christ responded by telling him to love God with all his strength and to love his neighbor, the scholar continued to ask who he should consider as his neighbor. That’s when Christ told him the story about a man who fell victim to robbers.

Let’s remember that our love for God cannot be separated from our love for others. Christ spelled out this point clearly when he clarified what the greatest commandment was. He immediately added that while the greatest commandment is to love God with all our strength, the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor. (cfr. Mt 22,36-40)

Loving God and loving our neighbor are inseparable. If we love God, then we have to love our neighbor. And this love for neighbor was further clarified by Christ when he gave us the new commandment which is to love our neighbor as he himself has loved us. (cfr. Jn 13,34)

We know that the love of God for us as shown and lived in full by Christ is universal and inclusive. It excludes no one. It is even offered to those who do not love God. This is the kind of love that we have to live and give to everyone, just as God in Christ gave it on the cross and continues to give to everyone until forever.

This universal love for our neighbor should be shown from our heart of hearts through our attitude towards everyone, through our intentions, words and deeds towards others, through our willingness to bear the burdens of the others, etc.

We have to understand then that what would constitute as our true development and as our fullness of life should be the fruit of our love for God and love for the others, whoever they may be, for that is what a neighbour is—he is anyone and everyone.

We have to be wary with just doing what we like to do, even if what we do is objectively not bad since it is not a wilful disobedience of God’s commandments. This is because, if it not referred to the love of God and love for neighbour, it may just be an exercise of self-affirmation.

It’s important that we broaden our understanding of who our neighbor is. If our basic understanding of neighbor is that of a person who is quite close to us, then we have to understand that such closeness is not just something physical, material, social, etc.

That closeness should be all-inclusive, which means it can only be something spiritual and moral, something that is only generated by love, and a love that goes all the way to showing mercy that also goes beyond simply giving sympathy and compassion.

Obviously, this love-generated closeness can only take place if we are truly and vitally identified with Christ who is love personified, the quintessence of love, he who goes all the way to offer his life for all men, saints and sinners. We know that with his death, he bore all the sinfulness of men.

This kind of love that makes everyone a neighbor of ours is readily available and attainable, because Christ has made it so. Everything that we need to have that love has been given to us. It’s up to us to make use of it.

Email: roycimagala@gmail.com