(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
And the second is like it
15th August 2014
We took a brief look at the first and greatest commandment last time. This time, we'll consider the second, which is "Love your neighbour as yourself", found in Leviticus 19v18.
The first thing Jesus tells us about this commandment is that it's like the first. It's not the same, of course. It's second, not first because love for God is more important and more fundamental than love for other people, because God the creator is more important and more fundamental than the people He created. But it's similar in several respects:
The first responsibility of every human is to love, worship and obey our creator. He gave us life, and we owe him total allegiance. Some people believe in the concept of a moral atheist, but our most important moral duty is to honour God.
The second responsibility of every human is to love other humans - all other humans. It's not enough for Christians to love other Christians, or to love members of our own family, or members of our social class or income bracket, or people of our own national or ethnic identity. We must love our neighbour, whoever he is. You'll remember that Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan in answer to the question, "Who is my neighbour" (Luke 10v29). We must love people that our friends, family and co-religionists hate. And we must love those who hate us (Matthew 5v44-47). And I think we need God's help to do that. Again, the first commandment comes before the second.
What does it mean to obey the second commandment? Paul says:
Just as all the commands about worship, sacred assembly and sacrifice are there to help us to understand how to love God, so the commandments about not stealing, committing adultery, or coveting what belongs to others, and whatever other commandment there may be are there to help us understand how to love other people. As Jesus says, All the Law and the Prophets hang on these first and second commandments.
Paul highlights these particular commandments:
As Paul says, Love does no harm to its neighbour. In examining ourselves in the light of the second commandment, let's start by ensuring that we're not hurting anybody.