Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thou shalt love thy neighbor

“Well I believe,” says one, “I never speak an unkind word of any of my neighbors. I do not know that I ever hurt a person’s reputation in my life. I am very careful to do my neighbor no damage. When I start in business I do not let my spirit of competition overthrow my spirit of charity. I try not to hurt anybody.”

My dear friend, that is right as far as it goes, but it does not go the whole way. It is not enough for you to say you do not hate your neighbor, you are to love him. When you see him in the street it is not sufficient that you keep out of his way, and do not knock him down. It is not sufficient that you do not molest him by night, nor disturb his quiet. It is not a negative, it is a positive command. It is not the not doing, it is the doing. You must not injure him it is true, but you have not done all when you have not done that. You ought to love him.

“Well,” says one, “When my neighbors are sick round about; if they be poor, I take a piece from the joint for dinner, and send it to them, that they may have a little food and be refreshed, and if they be exceedingly poor, I lay out my money, and see that they are taken care of.”

Yes, but you may do this, and not love them. I have seen charity thrown to a poor man as a bone is thrown to a dog, and there was no love in it. I have seen money given to those who needed it with not one half the politeness with which hay is given to a horse. “There it is, you want it. I suppose I must give it to you, or people will not think me liberal. Take it, I am sorry you came here. Why don’t you go to somebody else’s house? I am always having paupers hanging on me.”

Oh, this is not loving our neighbor, and this is not making him love us. If we had spoken a kind word to him, and refused him, he would have loved us better than when we gave to him in an unkind manner. No, though you feed the poor, and visit the sick, you have not obeyed the command, unless your heart goes with thy hand, and the kindness of your life bespeaks the kindness of thy soul. “Thou shalt love thy neighbor.”

From a sermon entitled "Love Thy Neighbor," delivered March 18, 1857.

Flickr photo by Wouter; some rights reserved.

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