All Individual Members of Humankind Are the Neighbor We Are to Love, but [in Different Ways] Depending on the Type of Goodness They Have (Continued)

Since goodwill resides in the inner self, where benevolence is felt, and then extends into the outer self, where good actions occur, it follows that people’s inner selves are what we should love; and we should love their outer selves on the basis of their inner selves. Therefore we are to love people according to the types of goodness they have inside. It is the goodness itself, then, that is actually our neighbor.

The following situations may serve as illustration: When we choose ourselves a household manager out of three or four candidates, or we hire a servant, we investigate that person’s inner self. We choose someone who is honest and faith and prefer that candidate because of those qualityes.

The same is true for monarchs or government officials. Out of three or four candidates, they select someone suitable for the job and reject the unsuitable, no matter whose looks they prefer or what the candidates say or do to win them over.

Everyone is our neighbor, and people come in an infinite variety. Since we need to love them all as our neighbor for the type of goodness they possess, clearly there are genera and species of loving our neighbor, as well as higher and lower degrees of that love.

Since the Lord is to be loved above all else, it follows that the degrees of our love for our neighbors depend on their love for the Lord, that is, on the amount of the Lord or the amount from the Lord that our neighbors possess in themselves. That is also the amount of goodness they possess, since all goodness comes from the Lord.

Nevertheless, since these degrees are within people’s inner selves and these are rarely obvious to the world, it is enough to love our neighbor by the degree of goodness that we are aware of.

Now, these degrees are clearly perceived after death, since there the feelings in our will and the thoughts in our intellect form a spiritual sphere around us that others can sense in various ways. In this world, however, this spiritual sphere is absorbed by our physical body and is contained in the physical sphere that pours out around us.

The Lord’s parable about the Samaritan shows that there are degrees of our love for our neighbor. The Samaritan had mercy on the person who had been wounded by robbers–a person whom both the priest and the Levite had seen and yet passed by. When the Lord asked which of the three seemed to have been a neighbor, they reply was “the one who had mercy” (Luke 10:30-37)

from True Christianity, Section 410

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