"The Lawyer stood up, and tempted Him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And our Lord answers, What do you think? How do you read the Law? And the Lawyer answers rightly, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul and mind--and thy neighbor as thyself."
Ah, but it is easy to say we love God, but...what precisely does this mean? It is a glib response that requires from us no real commitment. It is a cop out, really, because for most of us, God is little more than an abstract concept, not a living Reality that permeates our whole life--and how can we truly love an abstract concept?
That is why the second commandment--that we love our neighbor as our very own self--that we love our neighbor as though he or she truly is our self--is so essential to our Christian Faith. And it is exactly at this point that the question arises--just who is our neighbor? The answer given within the corrupt, pharisaical tradition was that one's neighbor is one's fellow Jew. As the Parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates, however, our neighbor is everyone.
For truly, how can we say we love the God Whom we have not seen, when we place our own needs and desires before those of our fellow man? If you profess to love God while hating your neighbor, your so-called love is a lie. If we are unwilling to express our love in a concrete way even to our worst enemy--our supposed love for God is a sham and we are in fact unbelievers.
The gift of love God bestows upon us is, after all, neither a feeling nor an emotion--it is rather the willingness to put to death our own egotistic desires for the sake of the other. In this sense, our neighbor truly is our salvation. It is only by mortifying our own self-centered thoughts and actions that we can hope to be granted salvation in God's eternal Kingdom.