Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
1 Corinthians 10:24
The Bible is filled with great pieces of advice. People think you need to memorize large portions of the Bible and apply them to your life, and the truth is, if you took only one or two phrases of the Bible and were vigilant about applying them to your life, you would be well on your way to salvation. Today’s verse is one of those verses.
Today, December 23, is one of those days when this verse will be a challenge, especially if you are out shopping for last minute Christmas presents. Imagine applying this verse when you and someone else are fighting for the last parking space at the mall. Or when there is a traffic jam to exit the mall and the last thing you want to do is let someone in line. Or you are getting frustrated when the person walking in front of you in the busy mall is walking too slow. Today is a great day to apply this verse to your life.
As we get close to this feast of Christmas, and as I meditate on this verse, I find that most of my sadness in life has to do with my interactions with my neighbor. If I did a better job looking out for my neighbor and my neighbor looked out for me, I imagine that my life, and theirs, would be so much better. And I’m not talking about the “neighbors” at the mall who I don’t know. I’m talking about the people I see every day—people I work with, people I live with, people I am friends with, people I serve, and of course, the people I interact with that I do not know.
I suppose that I could do a better job with empathy, to put myself in the shoes of my neighbor. That is probably a good place to start, to start looking at things from the lens of another person. If we could come to a place where we can say, in regard to our neighbor’s perspective, “yes, I can see that,” that’s a good start. Usually when confronted by someone, we go on the defensive, or we start our own offensive against our neighbor. We oftentimes do not see something from our neighbor’s perspective.
In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus gives the two greatest commandments when he says “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We (including me) summarize these two commandments as “love God and love your neighbor,” and sometimes we forget the expanded version of them. We are not only to love God, but to love Him with all our heart, our soul and our mind. We can love things or people but not be overcommitted to them. There are people I meet occasionally who I love, I love seeing them, I love talking to them, but I don’t interact with them on a daily or weekly basis—I don’t love them with all my heart, soul and mind. This is the kind of love we are supposed to have for God—ideally, love for Him is reflected in every breath, every action.
Let’s look at loving our neighbor, since this reflection is about seeking the good of our neighbor. We are supposed to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. That’s more than just a profound respect. It is putting ourselves in the shoes of our neighbor, that’s empathy. If I mow my neighbor’s lawn (which I do, I’m obsessed with lawn care), then I mow it as if I’m mowing my own lawn, with care. If I am writing my neighbor a note, I make sure that it is the kind of note I would want to receive. If I am going to get into a dispute with a neighbor, then I should be gentle, acting the way I would want a neighbor to dispute with me.
Today’s personal reflection point offers an opportunity to a variety of answers. I normally do not comment on the reflection point because I want you to think of your own answers. A little guidance here—think about who your neighbors are—they might be the people in your office, or the people in your own home. And as far as seeking their good, start off with how we can be more empathetic, and even on a more basic level, how we can be more courteous or kind. If everyone loved one neighbor with just a little more empathy, this alone could change the world.
You righteous, be glad in heart; and the heavens, be exultant. Leap for joy, O mountains, at the birth of the Messiah. Resembling the Cherubim, the Virgin Maiden is seated and holds in her embraces God the Logos incarnate. The shepherds glorify the newborn Babe; Magi bring the Master their precious gifts. Angels are singing hymns of praise, and say, “O Lord incomprehensible, glory to You.” (Praises, Orthros of the Nativity, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Personal Reflection Point: How can we seek the good of our neighbor?