I’ve been thinking about that command a lot lately and I think sometimes people take the neighbor part of it a little too literally.
There are about 7 billion people on this planet and when Jesus told us to love our neighbor I think he had more in mind than we do. A lot of times Christians fail to realize that the words used in the Bible are translated from another language, so we assume that every word was written with the exact definition we usually associate with a certain word. When most of us think of the word “neighbor” we think of someone who lives near by (e.g. our next-door neighbor) but I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant.
The pastor at the church I go to gave a better definition of the word “neighbor” and I think this is closer to what Jesus was probably saying: “A neighbor is any person in your circle of influence that has a need.” That essentially means a neighbor is any person in your circle of influence because who doesn’t have a need? And in today’s world if your circle of influence doesn’t spread outside of the street you live in or even the town you live in there’s a problem.
Of course Jesus wants us to love the people who live near us as we love ourselves, but I think he wants us to extend that same love to anyone we are connected to no matter where they are in relation to us.
And this is exactly why I am so passionate about getting to know the people I come in contact with via the internet. Because the misunderstanding of the meaning of “neighbor” is one of the reasons I think a lot of people don’t understand loving the people we meet online – because they don’t live near us – and even though the internet was not around when the Bible was written I think we can still use it to demonstrate a very biblical concept: loving people because they are people.