In Matthew, chapter 22, verses 36 to 40 we find that our Lord, Jesus Christ, when talking to a particular lawyer, was asked,
"Master, which is the great commandment in the law?"
Jesus said unto him, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
In this, Jesus taught that all the laws ever given and all the teachings of the prophets were based upon these two great commandments. In the book of Luke, chapter 10 we find that Jesus revealed to a certain lawyer that in order to obtain eternal life he must keep these two great commandments. The lawyer attempted to sidestep the second commandment by asking, "Who is my neighbor?" Whereupon the Savior related a parable about a man travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho. This man was waylayed by a group of thieves and was wounded, robbed, stripped and left for dead alongside the road. By chance, a priest happened along the way, but upon seeing the man he passed by on the other side. Perhaps he thought there was nothing he could do, or maybe he had an important meeting to go to. At any rate, he neglected to help. Soon afterward a Levite came, who was something like a Temple worker in the old testament. When he came to the man he looked on him and also passed on the other side. Having looked on him it is likely the Levite could have seen that the man was not yet dead, and maybe this roused fears that this man was also a thief pretending to be hurt so as to lure the Levite closer. Or perhaps the Levite had already passed judgement on the man believing him to be suffering for his own wrong doing. Again, assistance was withheld.
And then a Samaritan came along the way. In Jesus' time the Samaritans were people whom the Jews hated. They were brought to and settled in the Northern Kingdom at the time when the ten tribes were conquered and scattered by King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria. They were considered outsiders and not worthy of attention by respectable Jewish society. This Samaritan, however, gave better than he received. He dressed the man's wounds pouring in oil and wine, which was a costly treatment. He then placed the man on his own beast leaving himself to walk as he led the way to an inn. There he cared for the man and on the next morning paid the innkeeper extra to continue the care until the man was well, promising to pay whatever else might be needed. He not only provided for the man's immediate needs, but he went the extra mile.
After relating the parable, Jesus asked, "Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among thieves?" The question of "Who is my neighbor?" was frequently engaged by the rabbis of Jesus' time for the law was well known to them. To the Jews, the answer was only too clear; their neighbor was of course another Jew. The lawyer asked his question to seek a definite limitation on who his neighbor was, when in fact no boundary existed. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science religion put it very well when she said, "Home is the dearest spot on earth, and it should be the center, though not the boundary, of the affections." Jesus had taken the question "Who is my neighbor?" and posed in it's place the question "Whose neighbor am I?"
We need to be willing to reach out to all those around us. One thing that might be preventing that, though, is not knowing what to offer. What is love? Among the tragedies we see around us every day are the countless children and adults who, never having been shown love, are literally starving for affection. We can gain knowledge by learning, trust by doubt, skill by practice, but love only by love. The Apostle John, in describing the early saints, said that they loved Christ because He first loved them. (John 4:19) Love is only learned when it is directly shown through patience and long-suffering. But what exactly is it that is shown?
Sometimes it's helpful to begin learning what something is by first learning what it isn't. What is the opposite of love? If you said hate you'd be wrong. The opposite of love isn't hate, it's selfishness; hate is merely an appendage to that, and the greatest symptom of selfishness is apathy. The person without love is often too busy caring about himself to bother with caring about someone else. The Priest and the Levite didn't go over and kick the man who was alongside the road, but what they did was terribly wrong nonetheless. We often see in those around us, particularly children, that the longing for attention is so great that even punishment or negative attention is better than nothing. We often try to justify ourselves in saying, "He should know I love him. Haven't I done everything for him" and so on. Make no false assumptions; unless your child or your spouse or your parent or your friend feels that need has been filled, your responsibility has not been met. You must make an even clearer effort to communicate real love to a questioning person.
In what ways and through what means can this be done? In the book of 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, we can examine what I would like to refer to as a blueprint for love.
In the first few verses of the chapter, Paul tells us that it doesn't really matter what good things we do if we're not doing them for the right reasons. He goes on to describe a type of love which he calls charity, which is the pure love of Christ.
He tells us that charity suffereth long. Love must have the patience which comes through commitment. Make a commitment.
Charity is kind. I think the Boy Scouts provide some of the greatest opportunities for learning how to be a good neighbor. Kindness is a part of the Scout Law and teaches that a scout understands there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated. He does not hurt or kill harmless things without reason. Show the strength of gentleness to each part of God's creation.
Charity envieth not. It poisons the spirit to bear malice against another because of their advantages. Have joy in your neighbor's rejoicing.
Charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. Pride is one the seven deadly sins. Often it keeps us from doing the things we should, and sometimes causes us to do the right things for all the wrong reasons. All things have their proper place and are good so long as they remain there. Do the right things for the right reasons.
Charity doth not behave itself unseemly. Love is sensitive to the needs of others and doesn't walk on their feelings or desires. In this, probably more than anything else, the golden rule applies; treat others the way they want to be treated.
Charity seeketh not her own. An act of true love is not done in order to receive something in return; whether it be an act of service in return or even obedience. Give love without conditions.
Charity is not easily provoked. Again we find the need for patience in showing love. Be slow to anger and quick to praise.
Charity thinketh no evil. "Wickedness never was happiness." (Alma 41:10) Anyone who draws another person into the ways of iniquity, regardless of their justifications, is not interested in that person's eternal well-being. They are engaging simply in selfish gratification. Pray continually that you might resist the temptations of others.
Charity rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. Truth is of God and iniquity is of Satan. Choices and consequences have eternally been bound together, but Satan would have us believe this is no longer the case; that we can make our choices without fear of the attendant consequences. However, the law of debt still applies: the good things you pay for now, the bad things you pay for later. Choose the right.
Charity beareth all things. "Greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) Such a sacrifice is seldom asked of us, but what of giving freely of our time and efforts. Are we willing to bear the burden of service? Give of yourself.
Charity believeth all things. Love and faith are mutually inseparable; lessen one and you lessen the other. "Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt." (Shakespear) Trust in your neighbor.
Charity hopeth all things. If you never have a dream, you can never have a dream come true. Love is the manifestation of hope springing eternal. Reach for your righteous dreams.
Charity endureth all things. We are often called upon to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and restrained from taking arms against our sea of troubles because opposition will not end them. Joseph Smith was told in one of his darkest hours "that all these [adversities] shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." (D&C 122:7) Hold to the rod.
Charity never faileth. Love gives itself in sickness and health; through trial and tribulation, and joy and celebration. Endure to the end.
The Prophet Moroni, in the seventh chapter of his book, verse 47, said that "charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him." No one of us can be expected to reach perfection overnight, but one can be expected not to make it if the first steps are never taken. You are builders for eternity, but are you building a shack or a temple? God Himself has told us, "I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have." (2 Nephi 28:30)
I have a long way to go on the straight and narrow path, and I frequently stumble; sometimes I fall flat on my face. But deep, down I know that whatever true advantages I gain in this life will be multiplied in the life to come. There, the differences between those who do and those who don't will become much greater, and I don't want to have a more difficult time of it simply because I willfully neglected something here. So I pick myself up on that narrow path and struggle on. I can seldom see the end of the road, so I just go as far as I can see, knowing that when I get there I'll see farther.
Elder Marvin J. Ashton once said;
"Choose carefully what and whom you will serve or for what you will sacrifice, because that is where your love will be placed. It is important not only to love well, but also to love prudently. What we love takes our time. That to which we give our time, we are apt to love. Our daily actions determine where our love will be."
Our goals and priorities will always stem from that which we love. It therefore becomes paramount to have high values. The writer, C.S. Lewis once wrote, "Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you will get neither."
You must know what your values are. By this, I don't mean that you should have a vague idea of what your values are. You should sit down and write them out -- write what it means and why it's important to you. Do this so that you will have no doubts when your values come to be questioned or challenged, for they will be.
The Articles of Faith, as written by the hand of the Prophet Joseph Smith, are more than just statements of beliefs, they are statements of values. Not just statements which are true, but statements of truths which are important to us.
You must know which of your values are of greatest importance to you. Once you know exactly what your values are, you should prioritize them from most important to less important. Doing this will allow you to quickly determine the relative importance of a particular goal or task compared to other responsibilities and desires.
When you make goals, base them upon your own values, not on someone else's. Goals must be based upon values, lest they become like a tree with no roots, failing to grow and failing in the purpose for which they were planted. They dry up and wither and are soon forgotten. It is our values which give life to our goals.
When you know what your priorities are, stick to them regardless of what someone else's priorities might be. If your values are worthy and good there should never be any reason for you to lower them.
Each day, work on that thing which is of greatest value to you. Even if you spend the whole day working on just one thing, it will be worth it because you will have been working on the most imortant thing. And no day is wasted where you have accomplished at least one good thing.