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“You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:17, 18

“Whoever [makes provision] so for his own benefit provides badly for himself, whereas he who does so for his neighbor’s benefit provides well for himself; for the person who turns his ends in his own direction turns towards hell, whereas one who turns away from himself in his neighbor’s direction turns towards heaven.” Arcana Celestia n.6938

How can I resolve to love my neighbor more in the coming year? Should I find ways to neglect myself? Or perhaps find more stuff to give away? Do I need to spend more time helping people less fortunate than I by worldly standards? Do I give more money to charities? Maybe I just need to feel badly about the needy more than I do. I already feel considerable anguish about the needless death and suffering that happens on the other side of the world and in my town. Is it enough? Can I feel more anguish? Maybe I should feel anger, and then I will be loving my neighbor more than before.

The New Church concept of charity gives us a far greater burden than any of these considerations. And at the same time lowers the anxiety and the stress these alternatives create. True, authentic, genuine charity is a spiritual, heartfelt desire to do the neighbor good. This attitude and intention determines the nature and quality of our love for our neighbor. And it does not let us off the hook. This deep, spiritual state will always produce actions. Charity cannot exist in the spirit unless it finds expression in life.

As I pray for guidance for this new year, I am opening my heart to whatever the Lord inspires. It may be that I will work very close to home, and concentrate on my marriage, or my relationship with my children. It may be that I find a new way to make a difference at my work place. Or it may be that I make a small difference in a global issue, like hunger. Maybe I will make a huge contribution is a smaller setting, like my immediate neighborhood or my church.

I will be looking for the good in all the people I interact with, for they are each my neighbor, and I can find a way to be of service to the goodness I see in them. I resolve, therefore, to stop the thought, and not give power to the desire, that would direct my attention away from my neighbor’s need. I will respect the wisdom of my elders and the Word, as they counsel me about the good things I can do. I will delight in the joy the Lord gives me as I prepare and accomplish even the smallest deeds of my day. And I will honor, respect, value and deal honestly with all the people I interact with, even strangers. Such a commitment will certainly make a difference in the world, in my community, in my closest relationships. And thus I will provide well for myself!

Precursor January 2007