Since all healing takes place from the inside out, restoration to health begins with our thinking, which is a spiritual phenomenon. Today we focus on what is perhaps the most time-honored spiritual principle of all:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
All of the world’s major religions going back as far as 3000 B.C. have taught this concept in some form. Basically it states that we should treat others the way we want to be treated. No one wants to be treated with rudeness and disrespect. Rather, everyone wants to be treated with acceptance for who they are and with genuine kindness, generosity, and patience.
Since “love your neighbor as yourself” has been so widely known for so long, and since all of us desire to be treated well, why is our modern public discourse so overlaid with hostility? Is it because we are more indifferent to religious teaching now than in the past? Or is there something more fundamental – a missing piece of the puzzle, so to speak?
The missing piece of the puzzle is a deeper understanding of what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.” We have no trouble intellectually interpreting “love your neighbor as yourself”, but it is only when we consistently and successfully put a principle into practice that we truly understand it. We are obviously having great difficulty putting this well-known principle into practice!
So how can we better understand this core concept? Very simply, by identifying and accepting the fundamental premise upon which it is based. That premise may be described in a single word: UNITY!
Unity is truly fundamental. We call the place where we live the universe; translated directly from its Latin roots, “universe” means “turned into one.” From ecosystems to organisms, all life functions as a unified whole; one part affects all the others. Look at the human body. It is one unit consisting of many parts all linked together to support life. In a healthy body, no cell seeks to live life separate from the others. Rather, it draws its life from being united with all of the other cells, and their synergy creates a higher life form.
The great metaphysical teachers throughout history, like Jesus of Nazareth and Paul of Tarsus, understood that unity is the spiritual foundation upon which all permanent loving relationships are built. The vision they cast in their teaching is one of unity. Jesus prayed prior to his crucifixion,
“I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity…” [John 17:23] (NIV)
Paul in his letter to the Ephesians wrote,
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one Body and one Spirit…” [Ephesians 4:3-4] (NIV)
When we think of unity in relationships, marriage comes to mind. What Paul wrote on this subject in the same letter to the Ephesians is a real eye opener.
“..husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it…” [Ephesians 5:28-29] (NIV)
Translation: when you express love for another, you’re expressing love for yourself. In the spiritual realm, giving and receiving are the same. Conversely, if you judge someone else, you condemn yourself [Matthew 7:1-2] [Romans 2:1]. You reap what you sow [Galatians 6:7]. As you give, so you receive.
Notice that the fundamental premise of unity is consistent and always holds true – for better or for worse! When we recognize that, we can understand why it is so important to conduct ourselves in a civil and respectful manner and to love our neighbors as ourselves. In a spiritual sense, they are ourselves! They only appear to be separate in their physical form.
So what must each of us do to put a stop to the self-destructive behavior that we see around us? We must support and encourage one another to become more aware of our thoughts, words, and actions and to develop new habits of thinking. The next time you are tempted to judge someone’s words or actions, first ask yourself this question:
Would I really say or think this about myself?
Think of the difference you can make in your own life and in the lives of others by taking this single step. Let’s go forward now with renewed understanding and a deeper commitment to truly love our neighbors as ourselves.