The Degrees of the Relationship of Neighbour
Not only is man individually the neighbour, but also man collectively; for indeed a smaller and larger society, our country, the church, the Lord’s kingdom, and above all the Lord Himself, is the neighbour. These are the neighbour to which good is to be done from love. These are also the ascending degrees of neighbour. For a society consisting of many is neighbour in a higher degree than an individual man; in a still higher degree our country; in a degree yet higher the church; and in a degree higher still the Lord’s kingdom; but in the highest degree the Lord is the neighbour. These ascending degrees are as the steps of a ladder, at the top of which is the &rd.
A society is our neighbour more than an individual man, because it consists of many. Charity is to be exercised towards it as towards man individually, that is, according to the quality of good that is in it; and therefore in an entirely different manner towards a society of well-disposed than towards a society of evil-disposed persons. A society is loved when its good is consulted from the love of good.
Our country is our neighbour more than a society, because it is as a parent; for there a man is born, and it fosters him and protects him from injuries. Good is to be done to our country from love according to its necessities, which have regard especially to its sustenance, and the civil life and spiritual life of those that are therein. He who loves his country and does good to it from good will, in the other life loves the Lord’s kingdom; for there the Lord’s kingdom is his country. And he who loves the Lord’s kingdom loves the Lord, for the Lord is all in all in His kingdom.
The church is the neighbour more than our country; for he who cares for the church cares for the souls and eternal life of the men who dwell in his country. And therefore he who from love cares for the church loves his neighbour in a superior degree; for he desires and wills for others heaven and happiness of life to eternity.
The Lord’s kingdom is the neighbour in a still higher degree, because the Lord’s kingdom consists of all who are in good, both those who are on earth as those that are in the heavens. Thus the Lord’s kingdom is good with its every quality in the complex; when this is loved the individuals who are in good are loved.
These are the degrees of the neighbour, and with those who are in love towards their neighbour the love ascends according to these degrees. But these degrees are degrees in successive order, in which what is prior or superior must be preferred to what is posterior or inferior; and as the Lord is in the supreme degree, and He is to be regarded in each degree as the end to which it looks, therefore He is to be loved above all men and above all things. From all this now it may be seen how love to the Lord conjoins itself with love towards the neighbour. (HD n. 91-96)