May 3, 2024

Dr. Shawn Stoever
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
Leviticus 19:18
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Mark 12:31a

As humans, we tend to go pretty easy when we are judging ourselves, and we are often a little harsher when evaluating others. Social psychologists have identified what they term the “fundamental attribution error”. It states that we tend to attribute another’s poor behavior to their personality or character, while we attribute our less positive actions to external situational factors outside our control. I trip because there is a crack in the sidewalk, but you trip because you are clumsy. My golf ball ends up in a bad spot on the course because of the wind, but yours does because of your poor golf swing. I share an inappropriate story about someone else as a prayer request, and you do it because you are a gossip.

In short, we show ourselves grace and mercy while reserving judgment and condemnation for others. As Jesus is sharing the second “great” commandment to love others, He includes the qualification/explanation of “as yourself”. He is asking us to give others the grace that we tend to give ourselves.

Try something for the next few days. When you see someone’s behavior, imagine the best possible explanation for that behavior and believe that it may be true. For example, when you get cut off in traffic, just assume they are trying to get to the hospital to deliver a baby. We do not always have to assume the worst about others. In offering grace and understanding, we will be more likely to live out the command to love our neighbors.