How to Love Your Neighbor as You Love Yourself
By Jiang Nan, South Korea
The Lord Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one to another” (John 13:34–35). “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). The Lord Jesus requires of us that we get along well with others and that we love one another. But because we each have a different family background, different life habits, different personalities, ages and life experiences, it thus becomes unavoidable that prejudices and misunderstandings will arise in our dealings with our brothers and sisters, so much so that conflict and friction can occur between us. We then become unable to follow the Lord’s requirement that we get along well with others, and both parties are harmed. This can cause us all a lot of distress: Why can’t we keep the Lord’s teachings? What exactly are we supposed to do to get along well with others? Below, I will fellowship on three principles with you all; if we can all put these principles into practice, then getting along well with others will be easy to achieve.
- 1. Do not go by your feelings or personal preferences in your dealings with others, but treat everyone fairly
- 2. When misunderstanding and conflict arise, do not fixate on the other person’s faults, but learn instead to know yourself
- 3. When others hurt us, we must be more tolerant and forgiving toward them
1. Do not go by your feelings or personal preferences in your dealings with others, but treat everyone fairly
We can meet many brothers and sisters in our church, and no one is perfect—we each have our own faults. When we come across all kinds of different people, most of the time we go by our own feelings and personal preferences in the way we treat them. For example, some people are good at singing and dancing, they may be talented in various ways and have many special skills, and so we will want to connect with them, for they can bring us up to full strength and help us. Some people, however, may have no special skills, and they may have some shortcomings and faults, or they may have some physical disorder, and we never want to connect with people like this, but instead will disparage them and belittle them because of their problems. In fact, whenever someone like this is even mentioned, the first thing we think about is their disorder and, in severe cases, we can even exclude and shun them. Furthermore, in our dealings with our brothers and sisters, we always look up to and idolize those who have served the Lord for many years and those in all levels of leadership in the church. We like to connect with these people because we believe they are knowledgeable about the Bible and that they are the ones who most love the Lord. Besides these people, we enjoy interacting and connecting with those who have the same personalities, interests and life habits as us. We distance ourselves from those whose personalities, interests and life habits differ from ours, however, and we are unable to treat them fairly. In life, too much of the time we go by our own feelings and preferences in our treatment of other people. By interacting with people in this way, we not only end up constraining and harming them, but we cause our relationships with them to become stressful, and we then become incapable of getting along well with them.
God says, “A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one to another” (John 13:34–35). “And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). “With regard to how to treat others, what are the principles behind how you treat those with status and those without, as well as ordinary brothers and sisters and various levels of leaders and workers? You cannot treat your brothers and sisters in the same way as the unbelievers treat people; you must be fair and reasonable. You cannot be close to this one, but not that one; nor should you form cliques or gang up. You cannot bully people because you have taken a dislike to them, or fawn over those who are formidable. This is what is meant by principles. You must be principled in the way you deal with other people; you must treat them all fairly. … How do you treat them fairly? Everyone has minor faults and shortcomings, as well as certain idiosyncrasies; people all possess self-righteousness, weakness, and areas in which they are lacking. You should help them with a loving heart, be tolerant and forbearing, and not be too harsh or make a fuss over every tiny detail. … How does God treat each and every person? Some people are of immature stature, or are young, or have believed in God for only a short time. God might see these people as being neither bad nor malicious by nature and in essence; it is simply that they are somewhat ignorant or lacking in caliber, or that they have been polluted too much by society. They have not entered into the reality of the truth, so it is difficult for them to keep from doing some foolish things or committing some ignorant acts. However, from God’s perspective, such matters are not important; He looks only at these people’s hearts. If they are resolved to enter into the reality of the truth, if they are headed in the right direction, and this is their objective, then God is watching them, waiting for them, and giving them time and opportunities that allow them to enter. It is not the case that God knocks them down with one blow, nor is it that He grabs hold of a transgression they once committed and refuses to let go; He has never treated people like this” (“To Gain the Truth, You Must Learn From the People, Matters, and Things Around You”).
We can see from God’s words that He does not treat people based on their personalities, appearances or calibers, nor does He treat people based on how high or low their position and status happen to be. As long as someone loves the truth and pursues the truth, then God will enlighten and guide them, and He will lead them to understand His will. As for those who sin, as long as they make sincere repentance and refrain from committing sin again, then God will forgive them. Take the Lord Jesus’ disciples, for example. Some were fishermen and one was a tax collector, but although they were of lowly status, they still yearned for the truth and, when they heard the Lord call to them, they were able to immediately give it all up to follow Him. This gladdened the Lord, the Lord Jesus spared no trouble in fellowshiping the truth to them and He methodically told them many parables to enable them to understand His will. To the sinners, such as the promiscuous woman and the chief tax collector Zacchaeus, the Lord Jesus saw that they were willing to repent and so He forgave them their sins, and He did not treat them according to the sins they had committed. From the attitude God takes in His treatment of people, we can see that He treats people in a principled way, whereas we always go by our own feelings and treat people based on our individual preferences, and this is at odds with the will and the requirements of God. God has set an example for us to follow and He has shown us the principles for how to treat other people. In our dealings with other people, we cannot go by our own preferences, and we cannot treat people based on whether they are good to us or not, or on whether we like them or not, or on their background. Instead, we should relinquish our feelings and our personal preferences, and treat every single person according to the words of God and the truth. As long as a brother or sister sincerely believes in God and loves the truth, then no matter whether their personality or temperament meshes with our own or not, or whether they have status and power or not, or what mistakes they may have made in the past, we should always treat every person fairly. We should not discriminate, but should be loving, tolerant and understanding, for only then will we be able to get along well with others.
2. When misunderstanding and conflict arise, do not fixate on the other person’s faults, but learn instead to know yourself
“He’s so hard to get along with!” “I really don’t enjoy dealing with him!” … From these statements, we can see that, when misunderstanding and conflict arise between ourselves and a brother or sister, we always fixate on the other person and believe that it is all their fault. Very seldom do we reflect on the issues that exist within ourselves. And when we come into contact with the other person again, our tone becomes hard and we act poorly toward them, and the end result is that we are incapable of getting along well with them. The Lord Jesus said, “And why behold you the mote that is in your brother’s eye, but perceive not the beam that is in your own eye? Either how can you say to your brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in your eye, when you yourself behold not the beam that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of your own eye, and then shall you see clearly to pull out the mote that is in your brother’s eye” (Luke 6:41–42). God scrutinizes the innermost heart of man and knows the corruption that exists in the deepest recesses of our hearts, and He warns us: When conflict arises between ourselves and another person, we must learn how to reflect on our own issues, change ourselves first of all, and not fixate on the other person. In actual fact, most of the time the other person won’t necessarily have any issue, but rather it is we who are living within the corrupt dispositions of Satan, which prevent us from having normal relationships. For example, when other people make suggestions to us or they point out to us the flaws and problems in our work, because we live by our satanic disposition of arrogance and conceit, we therefore believe that there is nothing wrong with our work, we cling to our own ideas and refuse to accept the suggestions of others, to the point where we generate prejudices against them. Another example is that, sometimes other people may say or do something which then has an impact on our own interests, such as our self-regard, position or money and so on. Because we are dominated by our satanic disposition of selfishness, we then begin to nitpick with other people and, in severe cases, even hold grudges against them. At times like these, if we fixate only on the other person in the belief that they are in the wrong and we find fault with them, and yet we do not reflect on our own corruption, then our opinions of and prejudices against the other person will become stronger and stronger, the misunderstandings between us will grow deeper and deeper, and there will be no way at all for us to have a normal relationship. If, however, we focus on knowing ourselves, if we reflect on the corruptions we reveal, come before God to learn the lessons and treat other people in the correct manner, then we will be able to get along well with others.
Talking about this reminds me of an experience I had recently in my dealings with a sister named Liu. Sister Liu wears her heart on her sleeve and is very straight-talking. At a co-workers meeting, I was discussing a church work project with the brothers and sisters, and I made a suggestion. Sister Liu then took up the discussion and pointed out some problems with the suggestion I’d made. I was very displeased, and I thought to myself: “I’ve worked in the church for so many years, and yet you somehow understand things better than me and have more experience than me? You’re so arrogant! Doing what I suggest is the right thing to do!” I then elucidated on my view and, seeing that I was refusing to accept the points she’d raised, Sister Liu said nothing more. Sister Liu later made many suggestions to me, but I was still of the opinion that she was too arrogant and self-righteous and that she was always trying to find fault in my work. My prejudices against her became stronger and stronger and I repeatedly rejected her suggestions. In the end, she felt constrained by me and no longer dared to make suggestions to me. Over time, I felt a darkness fill my spirit, and I could not feel God’s presence when I prayed. In my pain, I sought and prayed to God. Later, I read in the word of God: “Do not be self-righteous; take the strengths of others to offset your own deficiencies, watch how others live by God’s words; and see whether their lives, actions, and speech are worth emulating. If you regard others as less than you, you are self-righteous, conceited, and of benefit to no one” (“Chapter 22” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning). Through the revelations of God’s words, I thought back over the time spent interacting with Sister Liu. I had not accepted any suggestion she ever made, but instead had always considered myself to be right, and that it was she who was too arrogant, always trying to find flaws where none existed and intentionally trying to find fault with my work. But when I thought about it carefully, I realized that “No gold can ever be pure and no man can ever be perfect.” No matter how good a person is, they will certainly still have flaws and shortcomings. Although I had been working in the church for a long time and I was quite experienced, this did not mean that I was without any faults, and there were inevitably some areas which I did not consider fully. What’s more, each and every brother and sister have their own strengths, and there will always be some rationale to their suggestions. God arranges for us to work together in the hope that we will be able to make up for what each other lacks and, together, safeguard the work of the church. And yet I consistently clung to my own ideas and did not listen to Sister Liu’s suggestions—I was so arrogant and conceited. By acting this way, I was not only incapable of working well, but I also caused my sister to feel constrained. When I thought over all of this, I felt so guilty and I reproached myself, and my prejudices about Sister Liu disappeared. Afterward, I would earnestly ponder the suggestions Sister Liu made, and I discovered that most of them were indeed right and that she was suggesting things I had not considered. And so, I took the initiative to have a heart-to-heart with her, and I apologized to her. After we fellowshiped, Sister Liu then felt released, and I felt very peaceful and at ease in my heart. Through this experience, I came to understand that whenever friction arises between ourselves and another person, then it is so important to reflect and try to know ourselves, for only then can we see clearly the corruption and flaws that exist within ourselves, we will no longer live by our corrupt dispositions, and we can practice in accordance with God’s words and live out our normal humanity. After my experience with Sister Liu, whenever conflict arises between myself and another person, first of all I quieten myself and I seek and pray to God, I focus on reflecting on and knowing myself through God’s words, I look to see which corrupt dispositions I am revealing and how I should be resolving my own issues. Then, without being consciously aware of it, my relationship with that person gradually gets back to normal and I am able to get along well with them. My whole being is then much more relaxed and happy.
3. When others hurt us, we must be more tolerant and forgiving toward them
In life, when other people do things that hurt us, we can very easily come to resent them, so much so that we can even attack them back. By acting this way, we not only prevent ourselves from having normal relationships with our brothers and sisters, but we will not even be able to get along well with our families and relatives. As Christians, then, suppose someone else does some things which really hurt us, or they say some very hurtful things, or things which have an impact on our interests. How then should we treat them in a way that accords with the Lord’s will?
Jesus taught us: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). God says, “You might be incompatible with someone’s personality, and you may not like him, but when you work together with him, you remain impartial and will not vent your frustrations in doing your duty, sacrifice your duty, or take out your frustrations on the interests of God’s family. You can do things according to principle; as such, you have a basic reverence for God. If you have a bit more than that, then when you see that someone has some faults or weaknesses—even if he has offended you or harmed your own interests—you still have it in you to help him. Doing so would be even better; it would mean that you are a person who possesses humanity, truth reality, and reverence for God. … As long as God has not decided what sort of outcome such people will have, has not expelled them, and has not punished them, and they are being saved, then you should help them patiently, out of love; you should not hope to determine the outcome of such people, nor should you use human means to crack down on them or punish them. You may deal with and prune such people, or you may open your heart and engage in heartfelt fellowship to help them. However, if you contemplate punishing, ostracizing, and framing these people, then you will be in trouble. Would doing so be in line with the truth? Having such thoughts would result from being hot-blooded; those thoughts come from Satan and originate from human resentment, as well as from human jealousy and loathing. Such conduct does not conform to the truth. This is something that would bring down retribution upon you, and is not in line with” (“The Five States Necessary to Be on the Right Track in One’s Faith”).
In order to save mankind, God endured tremendous humiliation in coming to earth, and He expresses His words to water us and shepherd us. When we are living in our corrupt dispositions, resisting God and rebelling against Him, God does not directly punish or curse us but uses His words to enlighten and guide us, so that we are then able to understand His good intentions from within His words, and repent to God timely; when we, as mankind, reject, slander and condemn God, God still cares for us, and He continues to perform His work to save us with the greatest patience…. God is so selfless and His love for mankind is so great!
Consequently, in our dealings with other people, we should take God’s heart as our own. As long as the other person is a brother or sister with good humanity and who sincerely believes in God, then we should treat them correctly. Even if someone hurts us, we must regard them from a developmental point of view and can’t form conclusions about others. We should still show them understanding, tolerance, patience and forgiveness, and not attack them back. By conducting ourselves in this way, we will be able to get along well with everyone, no matter what they are like. Moreover, when other people have difficulties, we must not make a big deal about the mistakes they may have made in the past but should still help them and support them. If we can achieve this, then all who have good humanity and who are kind-hearted will one day come to realize their own mistakes, and they will regret the things they have done in the past, so much so that they will come to admire how we live out our humanity.
Do you wish to establish normal relationships with your brothers and sisters and get along well with them? Then I trust that when you introduce the above three principles into your everyday lives, and you practice them and enter into them, then you will reap benefits that you cannot imagine!
Thanks be to the enlightenment and guidance of God. Amen!