Bible Review 3:4, Winter 1987


By Hershel Shanks

Bible Review

The Bible Does Not Tell Us to Love Our Parents, But We Should Love Our Neighbors

“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” we are told in Leviticus 19:18. Why doesn’t the Bible draw a wider circle, why only one’s neighbor, why not all humankind? Eric Hoffer, American longshoreman and philosopher, explained: Because it is easier to love humanity as a whole than to love one’s neighbor. If you can love your neighbor, you will love all humankind.

The Bible commands us to love our neighbor (Leviticus 19:18), to love the stranger (Leviticus 19:34) and to love God (Deuteronomy 6:5). But not our parents. We are told only to honor (or revere) our parents, but not to love them (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16). Why not love? Perhaps because in so intimate a relationship love cannot be commanded; love is too volatile an emotion in this setting to be commanded. All that can be commanded here is to honor and respect. These are possible even without constant love.

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