“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40
Out of the all the commands given by God to Moses for Israel to obey in the land of promise (Canaan) as God's people, Jesus picks the two commands above as the most important. The first command in importance comes from Deuteronomy 6:5 and the second command in importance comes from Leviticus 19:18. It is interesting that these two commands do not occur together in the Old Testament. While the commands to love God and to love others are listed separately this does not mean they are not vitally linked to each other. There is something included in the original command to "love your neighbor as yourself" from Leviticus that is not included in Matthew. In Leviticus, right after "love your neighbor as yourself," it says, "I am the Lord." Our relationship with the Lord has everything to do with our relationships with others.
When Jesus put the two commands together in response to the question he was asked above, it established once and for all that loving God and loving others are inseparable truths. He even goes on to say that these two commands are the basis for everything else in the law and the prophets. At points along the way in our series on the "Tongue" we have seen that our relationship with God and our relationships with others go hand in hand. You may recall the example of James 3 where we are told that it should not be that out of the same mouth come blessing the Lord and cursing people.
But what does it mean to "Love your neighbor as yourself?" Love is strictly relational. You love God and he loves you. You love others and others love you. You do not have a relationship with yourself because a relationship takes two persons. Therefore, the command is not talking about loving yourself. The Bible actually speaks against self love (2 Timothy 3:1-2). "Love you neighbor as yourself" does not mean love others in the way you love yourself. It means love others in the way you yourself would like to be loved by others (your neighbor).
It is not unreasonable to conclude that the answer Jesus gives to the Pharisee goes beyond just the Law of Moses. Jesus is saying that you can take everything God has in mind for mankind and it all boils down to these two commandments. Let it sink in that loving God and loving others is the essence of God's expectations for mankind. What ramifications does this have on our tendency to be people who are judgmental? Since nothing is more important than loving God and loving others, being a loving person should be the first and foremost priority in our lives. Accordingly, there is no room for being a person who mistreats other people because you have allowed a critical, judgmental approach to relationships to permeate your heart and life.
Lord, I embrace for myself the priority of loving you and others fully. I commit myself to a lifetime of being a truly loving person. I promise to forsake the mistreatment of other people that comes from judgmental attitudes, actions, and words. I will seek to be all I need to be in this through the transforming presence and work of the Holy Spirit both in me and through me. Amen!
Posted on Fri, July 24, 2015
by Alan Porter