It may be surprising to hear, but as a disciple of Christ I believe that what he said was true and that he really meant it. Somehow people are more keen to believe in talking donkeys than to take to heart definitive teachings of Jesus.
A story that has been told for 2,000 years is that of a scene when Jesus was cornered by the religious leaders and asked what he thought was the most important commandment in the Law of Moses. Jesus, being astute in the style and strategy of the Pharisees responded:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
What is shocking about this is that Jesus meant it! Notice that he did not qualify either statement. He did not say that you should “love your neighbor” only if they love you first, or if they have a nice yard, or if they have never served a prison sentence, or if they do not have any showing tattoos. The commandment is to love.
And don’t forget that he also did not say that the greatest commandment was to make converts, or to give speeches, or to write books, or to build beautiful churches, or to give money to the poor. No doubt at least some of those things are ways to love others, but the essence is still there: love your neighbor.
I don’t think that Jesus meant what many preachers think he meant. I don’t think that “neighbor” was any more a metaphor than “the Lord your God” was. Jesus was using a common Jewish devise here: parallelism. He made two statements that work together, not separately. They overlap not only in the sequence of the words but in their derived meaning. In the same way that the commandments speak of a literal love of a literal God, they also inform that the “neighbor” is a literal neighbor. Jesus means that we need to love the people we are immediately and personally in contact with as we love ourselves.
Sit back and imagine if each person on the planet took the time, energy, and effort to love the people that they come into regular contact with. Now imagine that you are one of those people.