How Love to Neighbor is Manifested

Saints Barsanuphius the Great and John the Prophet. "Letters".


Another brother asked the same Old Man: “It is a commandment of the Lord that we love our neighbor as ourselves (Cf. Lv 19.18; Lk 10.27) and that we be joyful and sorrowful with him as if he were one of our own members.(Cf. 1Cor 12.26) Therefore, to regard our neighbor being in poverty and yet ignore him is a transgression of love, even if we only have what we need and are unable to cover his needs. Tell me, then, father, how love is manifested in this case.”

Response by John.

Love toward one’s neighbor is manifested in many ways and not only by means of actually giving him something. Listen to some other ways. If you are traveling somewhere with your neighbor and find that your thought wants to be honored more than he, rather than rejoicing in the fact that he is honored in the same way as you, then in this respect you are not regarding him as yourself. For the Apostle said: “Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Rom 12.10) If you have something to eat and notice your thought wanting to eat alone on account of desire and not out of need, again in this respect you are not regarding him as yourself. Even when you only have enough for whatever you need, if you do not give him some of this, then in this respect you are not regarding him as yourself.

Indeed, if we wish to apply the scriptural word in this manner alone, then it will not be able to stand among us. In fact, this was not written for one person alone, but every person is called our neighbor.(Cf. Lk 10.36–37)

Therefore, how can you fulfill this commandment with respect to all people when you do not have enough to give everyone? Again, loving one’s neighbor as oneself also resembles this. If some loss occurs and you notice your thought taking pleasure at the fact that he is being harmed more than you, then again in this respect as well you are not regarding him as yourself. Or if you see him praised and do not rejoice with him, believing that you, too, have been praised with him; if you did not actually admit that your brother’s praise also extends to you — for he is your member — then you have not tried to regard him as yourself. The same applies to so many other cases. Furthermore, regarding one’s neighbor as oneself means that if you have heard something from the fathers about the way of God and your brother happens to ask you about it, then you should not retain [any attachment to] this care and benefit for the sake of envy. Rather, knowing that he is your brother, you should tell him whatever you heard according to your fear of God, without regarding yourself as a teacher; for this does not benefit you. 

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