Many thanks to those who contributed ideas to yesterday's 'bleg' for understanding of the second great commandment: 'love thy neighbour'.
My sense is that it is all this, and more.
As one of the greatest commandments, I feel that 'love thy neighbour' must be about more than my own personal salvation (which is, presumably, 'covered' by the commandment to love Christ as lord and saviour).
I feel that if the commandment to love God is first, and is about our own salvation - then the second commandment must be more than a condition placed upon our salvation (I mean more than just another thing we must do in order to be saved, and if we do not do it then we will not be saved).
In other words, I feel that the commandment to love thy neighbour is not mostly (or only) about ourselves, but also (and mainly) about the neighbour; and since LTN is a commandment of God, then it must be about the salvation of the neighbour (and not 'merely' his worldly happiness).
Yet, it is clear that salvation is individual - in the sense that each individal soul must - by free will - accept the salvation which Christ has won for us.
So, I have devised a metaphor (story, parable - what you will) for my own use; by which I explain to myself how, on the one hand, my love of others is primarily for their good (not mine); and, on the other hand, how this might work in terms of them choosing salvation for themselves.
From the Eastern Orthodox, I take the idea that after death the soul is escorted by two angels through various demonic temptations after which a choice is made: Heaven or Hell.
This choice is influenced by Christian prayers for the dead.
For the traditional Orthodox these prayers are operative in worldly time, during forty days following death, after which the choice is made (the first judgment - which may be revised at the second coming).
But from a more Roman Catholic (and philosophical) tradition of understanding I take the idea that these prayers operate via eternity (prayers from time address God in eternity, for whom all time is as one) - so that prayers for the dead at any time may operate at any time - whether in the future or retrospectively.
So I imagine the soul after death brought to a point of decision: Heaven or Hell, and there being all manner of accumulated sins, bad habits and temptations which would lead that person to choose Hell.
Against this are the benefits of Christian life, prayers for the dead (prayers from past, present and future - coming together at this point); and love from other people - from 'neighbours'.
But how could this work?
Well, perhaps the person is made aware of the love of those who have loved him in life on earth - even when that love was not known during life on earth, even when that love was not reciprocated during life on earth.
The soul becomes aware that those who loved him want him to choose Heaven, not Hell.
Or, in a weaker sense, those who loved him advise him to choose God. They do not compel the decision (any more than in real life) - the will is free to choose Hell, despite the advise of those who love him.
(And indeed this often happens in earthly life - as when a foolish and impulsive teenager rejects wise and loving advice from those with experience; and embarks upon a course of deliberate sinfulness, or inversion of good and evil.)
But we are (or should be) more likely to take the advise of those who love us, then the advice of those whose motivations may be malign.
The choice remains free. Nonetheless, love is a factor in the decision.
So, some will refuse God despite the awareness of the desire of those who love him.
But, it is an advantage, perhaps a crucial advantage (a factor among other factors) - indeed perhaps the difference between salvation and damnation - for the soul after death to become aware of the love of those who loved him during life.
Perhaps this could be envisaged to work in terms of love making itself known to the dead soul, and the soul deciding at that point whether to reciprocate that love - which is salvation; or reject that love - which is damnation.
Thus the first commandment (to love God) is seen as our eternal destiny, as the decision each must make, and must make for himself; while the second commandment (to love neighbour) is (from that moment of choosing to love God) our salvific job on earth: the most important thing we could possibly do.
All the commandments are about our own salvation. We cannot be saved if we do not love God AND the souls of all our fellow men. As God’s creatures are interdependent, love of self and love of neighbour are intertwined. If we work for others’ salvation, we work on our own at the same time.
The two great commandments are a summary of the Decalogue in positive terms. The first three of the Ten Commandments correspond to the great commandment to love God, and the seven others detail the commandment to love one’s neighbour as oneself, also known as the Golden Rule: Do as you would be done by.
The seven negative commandments of the Decalogue mark the lower limits where love ceases to exist, while the three positive (God’s adoration and worship, and honour due to parents) and the two great Commandments are about love, which has no upper limit.
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