The Ideal Neighbor To Love Is a Dead One

Sorren Kierkegaard continues to be source of delight for my theology and imagination. I do not understand him so much of the time and yet and drawn to him with some consistency.


Kierkegaard said the ideal neighbor to love is a dead one. Which sounds awful and, on the surface, a rational to kill a person. This is where literal meanings and the true meaning are miles apart.

Literally, loving a dead neighbor is a horrid idea. If we have to kill people in order to love them then do we really love them? Of course not. So if Kierkegaard does not mean this literally, then what the heck is he talking about?

If we understand someone as our “neighbor” then we have made the distinction of them and us. Specifically, when we make the distinction that someone is “my neighbor” we are “other-ing” them. When we put people into categories, even the category of “neighbor,” we are prone to keep people in those categories and see them primarily as that category and not as a fully human person.

You may see where Kierkegaard was going with this when he suggests the ideal neighbor is a dead one because what is dead is not the physical person but the very idea of someone being an “other”.

It is like Jesus showing us the best way to destroy an enemy is to love them. If you love someone then they are, by definition, no longer an enemy. “Loving enemies” and “killing the neighbor” are two ways to express the same thing - there is only one way to have no enemies.