We most commonly refer to this as the “Golden Rule”, or as paraphrased: Do unto others as you would have them do to you. Or as we might say in our pop culture, “hey just do the right thing.”
But this allows us to slip away from the truth. It allows us to say basically that we will not actively harm anyone, and will basically treat everyone with equal good manners. We will, in effect, be nice people as we expect people to be nice to us.
And there is nothing bad in this. It is certainly laudable, and if practiced by all, would improve our world immensely.
Yet Jesus, used the words, love your neighbor as yourself, and this is something a bit different.
We are, most of us at least, trapped in our egos. Our ego is, so psychologists tell us, directed by three basic motivations: (1) the desire for power and control, (2) the desire for affection and esteem, and (3) the desire for security and survival.
It is the journey of spiritual work to get beyond these self-centered aspects of ourselves, and see the “big picture” of nonduality–that God and we are one, and that we are one with one another.
This is no easy task as Deepak Chopra reminds us in one of his statements of truth:
“Everyone is doing the best they can from their own level of consciousness.”
What this means is that no one, not the ax murderer, the serial adulterer, or the bully, is acting knowingly to harm themselves. They are in fact, wrong thinking as it may be, acting out of some sense that at this moment in time, the action they take is helpful to one of those three ego objectives.
How does that impact loving neighbor as ourselves?
It suggests that just being a generally good person is not enough. If we understand ourselves to do base and inappropriate things, or at least to be pulled in that direction, that is ourself. So we are called to love all the dark places in each other, recognizing that that is ourself too.
In other words, we approach the love that the Christ and God have for us, love that is truly unconditional, that looks with pity upon our failings and our dark moments, and yet continually calls us to a higher place. That is the love that Jesus calls us to. It is a radical love, one that cannot see others as anything but reflections of ourselves. And with the same ferocity that we “love” ourselves, we “love” them.
This doesn’t mean we condone wrongs, nor that we don’t attempt to correct behavior. But we do so from a place of radical love. This is what Jesus meant. Or so I believe.
**Ideas for this post come from: Cynthia Bourgeault’s Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, Jim Marion’s Putting on the Mind of Christ, and Deepak Chopra’s How to Know God.