When we’re told to love our neighbor, St. Leo the Great reminds us, we need to interpret the word “neighbor” to mean everyone. There is no one on earth who is not your neighbor—even the people who persecute you.
This godly love cannot be perfect unless we love our neighbor as well. And in the name “neighbor” we must include not only those who are connected with us by friendship or neighborhood, but absolutely all humanity.
We have a common nature with all humans, whether they’re enemies or allies, slaves or free. For the one Maker made us; the one Creator breathed life into us. We all enjoy the same sky and air, the same days and nights. And though some are good and others bad, some righteous and others unrighteous, yet God is generous to all and kind to all.
But the broad extent of Christian grace has given us even more reasons for loving our neighbor. Reaching throughout the world, it looks down on no one, and teaches that no one is to be neglected.
Quite rightly Christ teaches us to love our enemies, and to pray to him for our persecutors. Every day he grafts shoots of the wild olive from all the nations into the holy branches of his own olive, and makes people reconciled instead of enemies, adopted children instead of strangers, just instead of ungodly, so that “every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).
–St. Leo the Great, Sermon 12, 2
IN GOD’S PRESENCE, CONSIDER . . .
Are there neighbors even close by whom I have nothing to do with?
How can I overcome the walls that separate me from my neighbors?
Father, let no national boundaries limit my concern for your people, but give me the courage to serve all your children.