Embrace and Tolerate
Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?” He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?” He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.” “Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.” Looking for a loophole, the scholar asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”
The above paragraph was in a post I received on Facebook from a young man of strength and character. This paragraph has become the topic of the world news because of recent events occurring in the United States. The man elected in part with the support of conservative religious groups seems to have forgotten this part of faith – all faiths.
In times where terrorism seems to occur several times a day in some part of the world and several times a year in others, fear is an understandable reaction. Fear responses are our body’s defense system. It serves as a reminder to act – not to hate. We take cover during a storm because our body fears the consequences. We use medicines productively to combat illness because our body is telling us something needs attention. When used appropriately, fear can serve great purpose.
To hate one’s neighbor, though, is not productive and none of the world’s top religions encourage it although they all speak of it. “Looking for a loophole, the scholar asked, “And just how would you define your ‘neighbor’?” In other words, who do we embrace, loving them as ourselves?
We all have had neighbors with whom we were not friendly. It is inevitable that at some point in time our neighbors will not share our interests or respect for boundaries, play loud music, push their leaves onto our yard, etc. In some settlements, the neighbors have guns aimed at the houses. How on earth are we supposed to embrace these people? Surely they are not our true neighbors. Or are they?
“Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side…”. This quote is from the Quran, 4:36. Islam speaks highly of the one who not only sees their neighbor and embraces them but also tolerates them and treats them with respect.
“The Scale of Wisdom” is a collection of sayings of the Prophet Mohammed and the Twelve Imams compiled by M. Muhammadi Rayshahri. “It is to help him if he asks your help, to lend him if he asks to borrow from you, to satisfy his needs if he becomes poor, to console him if he is visited by an affliction, to congratulate him if is met with good fortune, to visit him if he becomes ill, to attend his funeral if he dies, not to make your house higher than his without his consent lest you deny him the breeze, to offer him fruit when you buy some or to take it to your home secretly if you do not do that, nor to send out your children with it so as not to upset his children, nor to bother him by the tempting smell of your food unless you send him some.”
What does the Torah say about loving one’s neighbor? “Do not take revenge and do not bear a grudge. Love your neighbor as yourself. I am God.” This passage from Leviticus 19:18 is important as is the Jewish definition of love. Judaism defines love as “the emotional pleasure of identifying virtues in another person.” It is not seen as an act of fate nor a physical pleasure but a deliberate embracing of another and a purposeful identification of their existence.
The third of the world’s largest religion is Christianity, the third of the Abrahamic faiths. Scripture for this topic is found in many places in the Christian Bible but it appears first in the New Testament in the Gospel of Matthew, in the twenty-second chapter. To the question at the end of our first paragraph, the man known as Jesus of Nazareth gave this answer earlier in this book. Matthew 5:43 states: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.
Later in that same book, Matthew 22:36 we find this: “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” We are to embrace all and tolerate them. In Islam this is illustrated by not having your house higher than your neighbors so as to prevent him from the breeze. In Judaism, it is to recognize that we are all different but those differences have value. In Christianity it is to allow that your enemy is still your brother and sister as children of the Creator and should be treated as you would wish to be treated.
Who is the neighbor you are to embrace and tolerate? The person who is standing beside you, the person standing halfway around the world, the person who looks nothing like you or whose speech is unfamiliar because they exist and are, therefore, your neighbor. We should embrace and tolerate. To do anything else is to live a lie and hasten the end. This is not political or even religious. It is simply good common sense.