"Love for our neighbor is our will to embrace God’s will for the other person; God’s will for the other person is defined for us in the unrestricted command to surrender our self-centered will to our neighbor, which neither means to love the other instead of God, nor to love God in the other, but to put the other in our own place and to love the neighbor instead of ourselves."
“The church-community could not bear anything, were it not borne by Christ.”
Both quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Sanctorum Communio
Many people have heard the Bible story of “The good samaritan” and know the famous verse “Love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10).” More common is one’s familiarity with “The Golden Rule”, ”treat others as you would want to be treated.” There is no mention in Bonhoeffer’s text to either of these, but one must consider its relevance in his dissertation and what it means to truly love another.
To begin, the “Golden Rule” has reciprocal intentions, meaning one has one’s own interest in mind rather than solely the “other.” I will treat you this way, having in mind this is how I want to be treated in return. Intentions are not always true but some could be genuine and authentic. “The Golden Rule” however thinks of oneself, rather than setting one’s interest aside for the interest and benefit of the other.
The story of the “Good Samaritan”, is told in response to a question by a young lawyer, who asks Jesus, “how can one attain eternal life?” Jesus answers, “You shall love The Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and ‘your neighbor as yourself.” The story continues to unfold to undestand this narrative of a birds- eye-view of how three different people respond to a stranger in need but do nothing but offer sentiment. The man is helped when a Samaritan arrives and put his own apprehension and agenda aside to help and restore his brokenness. Bonhoeffer writing does bring forward the idea of how do individuals love well within the greater community of the Church which will result in how the individual and the Church will impact and respond to the needs of the greater society. Time and convenience are enemies in fostering this type of care for others. We all desire it for ourselves but sometimes we can’t see beyond ourselves to the care of others. It is a strong challenge and reveals the work that needs to be done. To help one selflessly and work towards someone else’s benefit is the type of love God calls the individual and the Church community to embody to those who are called “neighbor.”