“Love Your Neighbor As Yourself”

In one of the core passages in the New Testament, Jesus says that “all the law and the prophets” can be summarized in two commandments:1

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind.”


“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The word here translated ‘neighbor’ is the Greek word PLĒSION/πλησίον, meaning ‘near by’.2 So in this context we have: “[those] near by.”

I don’t see any reason why this couldn’t be translated just as well by:

“Love your community as yourself.”

After all, your ‘community’ is all those near by to you. But it seems to me that translating it this way opens the aperture of the imagination about what this verse implies.

So I have a thought for your consideration. Back in the dawn of humanity we figured out that if we band together, our odds of survival were much better. Many humans working together had a much better chance of bringing home the brontosaurus burgers. But, to belong to a tribe, one has to give up some of one’s autonomy.

And so began the tension between the well-being of the Individual versus the well-being of the Tribe. Too much emphasis on the Individual and the Tribe suffers (an extreme example being anarchy). Too much emphasis on the Tribe and the Individual suffers (an extreme example being totalitarian states).

It’s a balancing act, or maybe yet another paradox: the Individual vs. the Tribe. I note, however, that in the second commandment Jesus commands us to agapē-love both — “Love your Tribe as you love Yourself”. Of course He would command us to agapē-love both! After all, we’re even supposed to love our enemies! Of course that is really hard to do, and it’s not always clear how to do that in practice. But then, Jesus was quite clear that following Him is not an easy path.

  1. Matt 22:37 ff. Both of these commandments are themselves quotations from the Jewish Scriptures/Old Testament, namely Deut.6:5 and Lev.19:18.
  2. Danker, F.W., Bauer, W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition. University of Chicago Press, 2001. ISBN 978-0226039336. Amazon