I took the time to read some excerpts of Chesterton today and was much edified, as seems to always be the case when I read his works. He had a great insight into why God commands us to “Love our neighbor” as opposed to just “love all humanity.” He says in Heretics that, “We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next-door neighbor.”
It seems noble to say that I love all humanity and am for bettering humanity, but it only appears to be noble. Everybody is for loving humanity! The truth is, the idea of loving humanity is much easier than loving your neighbor. It’s easier to love humanity as a whole — we want humanity to prosper, we want humanity to be equal, we want the best for humanity. But, it gets different when we make it specific — when we make it about our neighbor. Because we can’t choose who our neighbor is — he just is our neighbor. Which means he can be the annoying kid in school that nobody likes, or he can be the know-it-all in our college class, or the boss who only cares about making himself money at everyone else’s cost. It’s a lot harder to love humanity when humanity gets specific and close-by: as our neighbor. When we don’t get to choose how or why or what part of humanity we are going to love, it’s harder to find a reason to love. As Chesterton so eloquently puts it:
“We have to love our neighbor because he is there… He is the sample of humanity which is actually given to us. Precisely because he may be anybody, he is everybody.”
I wonder how often I get caught up in trying to love everybody that I simply forget to stop and love anybody, without choosing who that is — and my neighbor is the easiest one that fits in the category.
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 19:19)