Since the sort of goodness in every individual is different, it follows that the nature of each person’s goodness determines both the level at which and the way in which that individual is “a neighbor.” We can see that this is the case from the Lord’s parable about a man who fell among thieves, whom both a priest and a Levite passed by, leaving him half dead, while a Samaritan, after he had bound up his wounds and poured in oil and wine, lifted him onto his own beast and brought him to an inn and made arrangements for his care. The Samaritan is called “a neighbor” because his actions were those of a caring person (Luke 10:29–37). We can tell from this that the people who are “a neighbor” are the ones whose lives are devoted to doing good. In fact, the oil and the wine that the Samaritan poured into the wounds mean goodness and the truth that it shows us.
We can see from what has been said thus far that in the broadest sense goodness itself is one’s neighbor, since people are neighbors according to the nature of the good that they do, which they get from the Lord. Further, since goodness is one’s neighbor, love too is one’s neighbor, because everything good that we do is inspired by love. This means that any individual is a neighbor according to the nature of her or his love, which comes from the Lord.
The fact that love is what makes someone a neighbor and that we fulfill the role of a neighbor depending on the nature of our love becomes clear in the case of people whose lives are devoted to loving themselves. Such people recognize as neighbors those who love them the most—that is, those who are most closely connected to them. These they embrace, these they kiss, these they benefit, and these they call family. In fact, because [people devoted to self-love] are evil, they consider the types of people just mentioned to be their neighbors more than others are; only if others show them love do they consider them too to be their neighbors. They accept someone else as their neighbor, then, to the extent that they receive love from that person and depending on the kind and amount of love they receive. People like this start with themselves to determine who their neighbor is because the determining and deciding factor is whatever one loves.
People who do not love themselves above all, though (and this is true of all who are in the Lord’s kingdom), start in determining who their neighbor is with the One whom we should love above all—that is, with the Lord—and they consider an individual to be their neighbor depending on the love that individual has for and from the Lord.
This makes it quite clear where we of the church should start in deciding who our neighbor is and shows that people are our neighbors depending on the goodness they have from the Lord—that is, goodness itself is where we should start.
from New Jerusalem, Sections 87-89