Bible Question:

What does God mean when He says, “Love others as yourself? ” Does it mean to protect people from harm that you might do to them?

Bible Answer:

“Love your neighbor as yourself” is known as the golden rule.  It is found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:29). James 2:8 calls it the royal law. Galatians 5:14 tells us that if we keep this command, we would fulfill the whole Law. That is a truly amazing truth. The command occurs nine times in the Bible (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 5:43; 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8). The first time this statement occurs in the Bible is in Leviticus 19:18.

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:18 (NASB)

It is a command given by God in the Old Testament. Then Jesus repeated it in Matthew 5:43. He said this,

You have heard that it was said, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.” Matthew 5:43 (NASB)

If we compare Leviticus 19:18 and Matthew 5:43, we discover that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day had ignored “as yourself.” They had intentionally not taught “as yourself.” So Jesus corrected their error.

While it is true that Jesus may have corrected them not because they misquoted the statement, but because the Pharisees and Sadducees did not like those last two words “as yourself.” So, they did not teach it correctly. So, what does God mean by love our neighbor as ourself?


Love Your Neighbor As Yourself

Love Your Neighbor As Yourself


In order to understand the golden rule, let’s start with an illustration of “loving others as yourself” and then study a few verses. Here is the illustration.

A man who had just arrived in Heaven told Peter how grateful he was to be in such a glorious place, and asked Peter to give him one glimpse into Hades out of curiosity. This Peter did.

In Hades he saw a long table extending as far as one could see, laden down with the most delicious of all kinds of food. But everyone around the table was starving. When asked for an explanation, Peter said, “Everyone is required to take food from the table only with four-foot long chopsticks. They are so long that no one can take the food from the table and put into his mouth. Therefore, each one is dying of starvation.

Quickly they returned to Heaven, and behold, the new arrival saw an identical table, laden down with the same foods, but everyone around the table was happy and well fed. Then he said to Peter, “How do they take food from the table?” Peter answered. “Only with four-foot long chopsticks.” At that point the new arrival asked, “Then why are all those in Hades starving to death while all those up here are well fed and happy?” Then Peter answered, “In Heaven we feed each other!”

While the story is obviously not true, it is a great illustration of “loving others as yourself.” “To love others as yourself” is simply doing for others what you would do for yourself.

While the illustration is helpful, the following Scriptures provide greater insight.  The context of Leviticus 19:18 reveals that loving your neighbor as yourself includes many things. Here are a few examples from Leviticus 19 that help us understand what this statement means: not oppress your neighbor, not rob him, not withhold his wages (v. 13),  not curse a deaf man or cause him to stumble (v, 14), do no injustice in judgment (v. 15), “You shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great.” (v. 15), not slander your people or endanger the life of your neighbor (v. 16), nor should we “hate our fellow countryman in our heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him” (v. 17). Now that is a detailed list of examples.

In the New Testament, we read these examples of how to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Philippians 2:3-4 (NASB)

That is a great summary of Leviticus 19:18. That is how we wish to be treated. Romans 12:10 and Ephesians 4:2 say it this way,

. . . give preference to one another in honor. Romans 12:10 (NASB)

. . . with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love. Ephesians 4:2 (NASB)

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus gives us His own illustration of how to love our neighbor. In the parable, a Jewish man is beaten and robbed and is lying beside the road. Later a priest and a Levite pass by but they refuse to help him. Eventually, a Samaritan was passing by and it was he who stopped and helped this Jewish man.

. . . he felt compassion, and came to him, and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. “And on the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.’” Luke 10:33b -35 (NASB)

At that time in history, the Jews did not like the Samaritans. So, the illustration should affect us. The Samaritan would have been the last person this Jew would have wanted to associate with or care for. Yet, it was he who cared for him. Then Jesus said this,

Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands? Luke 10:36 (NASB)

The Samaritan illustrated how to love your neighbor as yourself.

The ultimate example of how to love your neighbor as yourself is given to us in John 15:12-13, by Jesus when He said,

This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. John 15:12-13 (NASB)

Here Jesus tells us how He showed us love. He died for us. He was willing to give up His life and die so that we could have eternal life (John 3:16; 6:40).


Therefore, to love your neighbor as yourself ultimately means that you are willing to sacrifice yourself for others. If you were starving and thirsty, would you want something to eat or drink? If you were in danger of dying, would you want someone to help? Would you want someone to forgive you of an offense or a wrong?

The key to loving others as ourselves is to depend on the Holy Spirit to help us love our neighbor (Galatians 5:16). Our problem is not an absence of love because God’s love has already been poured out into our heart (Romans 5:5). Our problem is sin in our heart. We need to admit our sin of not loving others as ourselves and ask the Holy Spirit to love through us.

Saint Francis of Assisi was terrified of leprosy. One day on the narrow path he was traveling, he saw something very white in the sunshine. It was a man with leprosy! Instinctively his heart shrank back, recoiling and shuddering in fear of the disease. But then he rallied. Ashamed of himself and realizing he would want to be loved and accepted, he ran and cast his arms about the sufferer’s neck and kissed him and passed on. A moment later he looked back. There was no one there, only the narrow, empty road in the hot sunlight. Ever afterwards, he was sure it was not a leper but Jesus Christ who met him.

Let us love one another as we would want to be loved.

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