Why do we need to be commanded to love our neighbours as ourselves? Because it doesn’t come naturally. That, and more in my reflections at First Things entitled “Love my neighbour as myself? I don’t think so.”

Of course, this selfless love for neighbor does not come naturally to us. Rather the opposite is true, as we see in Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan. There help does not come from those from whom we would have every right to expect it; it is not the Priest or the Levite who care for the wounded man. Either could do something for him, and yet no one does—no one, that is, except a foreigner, and a social pariah at that. The others “pass by on the other side.” The thought-process at work seems clear: If I don’t get too close—if I leave enough space between us—then his problem can’t be said to be my responsibility.

It is not without reason that Christ tells us to emulate the Samaritan here. By that, I don’t just mean that the Samaritan had the right response to the situation and that we should imitate him, though of course that is true also. Instead, I mean to say that we need the command to act like the Samaritan precisely because it is so unnatural to us. We do not, of our own accord, set our neighbor’s needs on the same level as our own. We do not love our neighbors as ourselves. We need to be commanded to do so.

How different is God’s response to us! He looks down and sees us beaten down by sin, dying on the side of the road. There is no health in us. And though we have disobeyed him, mocked him, even hated him, he sends his Son to be our Good Samaritan. In humility, this Great High Priest does not pass by on the other side of the road. No, he stoops down to lift us up. And what is more, he does not simply care for our sufferings; he transfers them to himself, and by his wounds we are healed.

Read the rest at First Things.