"Thy Neighbor As Thyself"
"Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" asked a certain lawyer. Jesus' response, as was often the case, was to answer the question with a question of his own, "What is written in the law? How readest thou?"
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself," said the lawyer. Jesus answered, "Thou hast answered right: this do and thou shalt live."
Many Bible students have stumbled over that second part of the lawyer's answer. How is it possible to love "thy neighbor as thyself'? What is the true significance of such an enigmatic and puzzling saying? How can a man both "deny himself" and "love himself'? Jesus answered the lawyer with a commendation; he had given the true response in saying that a man should love his neighbor "as himself." But how, and in what sense, is a man to "love" himself?
Actually, this short statement, so puzzling on the surface, reveals one of the profoundest insights into human nature in all the divine revelation. It shows truly that the Scripture is from the same Intelligence as man himself — — the Author of the Bible is the Creator of man. For the Scripture is perfectly adapted to human needs, and shows a perfect understanding of human nature. The insight of the modern psychologist and psychiatrist (who is, often an atheist or at least an agnostic) is in perfect accord with this Divine revelation concerning humanity. The modern research psychologist informs us that a great deal of the evil in the world, and a tremendous amount of emotional and spiritual maladjustment (resulting in antisocial behavior) grows out of the individual's poor image of himself. Often the violence and ethical nihilism seen in such stark nakedness in the "youth rebellion" is simply the inevitable fruitage of the kind of teaching this generation has received in the homes, the schools — and the churches!
The doctrine of evolution, taught with such insidious persistence in the public schools, from the first grade right on through the graduate schools of the universities, has spawned a generation of "animals." They have been taught they are nothing more than animals; they think of themselves as animals; they behave like animals; they are as devoid of moral principals as animals.
And, motivated by subconscious drives which they do not understand, and of which they are not even aware, they desire to LOOK like animals! This is the basic and psychological rationale of the dirty unkempt hair and beards, the filthy clothes, the primitive urge to function at an animal level in all the natural and normal activities of the human organism. Among civilized peoples in all ages and among all cultures the elimination of body wastes and satisfaction of the sexual drive have been matters of privacy and seclusion. Animals, however, know no such restraint or delicacy of feelings. And neither do the militant, brutish, modern vulgarians.
All of which is related to "thy neighbor as thyself." A true child of God recognizes himself as such; he holds his head high with self respect. He is not an animal; he is not a savage; he is the child of a King! And he behaves as such. He has a true image of himself as a creature of God; and as the offspring of God he conforms his life to the pattern which is befitting a child of such a Father. God is benevolent and merciful; so much so that he "loved the world" and "gave his only begotten Son" for the redemption of mankind. The children of God, recognizing themselves as such, conform to this image. They, too, like their Father, are lovers of mankind; they actively and constantly seek for opportunities to be of help and service. They love their neighbors because of what they themselves are — children of God.
The prime requisite for respect of others is, first of all, respect for self. Without such self-respect, man becomes an animal. With it he can truly and rightly love his neighbor "as himself."
F. Y. T.