We all know the bible verses found in Matthew and in Mark where Jesus is asked, "Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replies, "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." This is the response you would expect from Jesus. It is the response his listeners would expect, any other answer would have been blasphemous. Jewish leaders who heard this would not have been able to argue with Jesus response.
But then Jesus went beyond the original question and said something not so obvious to the crowd. He said, "And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." This second commandment was not so obvious to his listeners. And truthfully, it is not so obvious to us today!
We can understand the first commandment; it may be hard to quantify and thus hard to really do. But we, at least, understand the idea and strive to obey it. But the second commandment involves other people and this is not hard to quantify. These other people include our family, our neighbors, those who love us. Sure we can and do love them. Jesus recognized our natural love for those who love us. In fact he states the obvious when he said, "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even the pagans do that? Yes He know how we are and he wants more from us!
There are a few clues in the Bible to tell us what this love of others really means. The first is in Matthew where he says, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..." Now that is not easy, in fact, it is hard, almost impossible! But that is what he said. If you want to obey the second commandment, you must love those who don't love you even those who hate you! Don't just love them, pray for them!
Maybe the next clue to loving your neighbor will be easier. Jesus taught, "Do not judge, or you will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use; it will be measured to you." Put in another way, You must use the same standard for judging your neighbor as you would want your neighbor to use when judging you! That is harsh. Assume my neighbor stole money from a local charity. If I condemn him without knowing the reasons he stole the money, I am giving him the right to judge me for stealing from the PTA treasury without knowing why I took the money. Love my neighbor as I love myself. Judge my neighbor as I want to be judged.
The third way to love your neighbor is in the way you treat those who are in need. For this go to First John the third chapter and the seventeenth verse. John the Apostle writes, "If anyone has material possessions and see his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?" Notice, John does not set any qualifying conditions on the person in need. He does not mention why the person is in need. He does not say to see if the person is able to work, or is in real need. Jesus also talks about this giving to those in need in Matthew 25:31-46. In this passage ay judgement day, people are separated into sheep and goats. The sheep gave to those in need while the goats did not. In verse 45, Jesus says to the goats, "I tell you truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." Read the full passage to see those Jesus sees in need.
Love for those who inhabit this world can be complicated or it can be easy. Love and pray for those who you love as well as those you hate. Be loving in your judgment of others, give them the same benefit of the doubt as you would want for yourself. Be conscience of and eager to help those in need. By helping, you are loving them.
What does love have to do with it? Everything! Love the Lord your God and Love your neighbor as yourself.
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