This is a basic, essential moral teaching that is found in many of the world’s great religions and philosophies. It was articulated by Jesus 2000 years ago, when he urged his followers to love their neighbor and, not only that, even to love their enemies (Luke 6:27-31). A high level of morality is derived from this one “Golden Rule” — that we should treat everyone else the way we would wish to be treated.

Jesus not only taught, but demonstrated a radical message of love for all people, through his willingness to share fellowship with the outcasts of society: lepers (who were considered ritually unclean), tax collectors for the Roman Empire (who were considered traitors to Israel), and various types of sinners (who were regarded as inappropriate company for a rabbi or holy man). He radiated compassion, mercy, and forgiveness as great divine virtues — and encouraged us to follow in his steps and forgive those who have sinned against us (Mat. 6:12, 18:21-22, Luke 23:34).

The ideals of selfless service and giving to the less fortunate were repeatedly promoted by Jesus as a necessary aspect of spirituality, in fact, as a foundation of God’s expectations for human behavior (Mat. 25:34-40). Love, service, and charity are so important that without these, a person’s commitment to religious doctrines is meaningless (James. 2:14-17).

All people are God’s children (Mal. 2:10, Rom. 8:16), and therefore we must view and treat each individual as our brother or sister. Anything less is to demean humanity and, therefore, to demean oneself. There are no exceptions to this rule: not even the most wicked, corrupted, deviant, or otherwise undesirable person is beyond our call to love (Mat. 5:43-45, John 13:34-35). And that includes oneself! Loving others begins with loving yourself as the son or daughter of God that you are. No matter who you are or what you have done, you are worthy of God’s love, and therefore worthy of love from yourself and others. As one who is worthy to be loved — with your faults and all — you are called to love others regardless of their faults.

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