Phil Cox

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More on the second commandment

22nd August 2014

Last time, we started to look at what Jesus called the second commandment:

Matthew 22v37-40
Jesus replied: "‘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 neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Neither the first nor the second commandment, as described by Jesus, are found in what we know as the Ten Commandments. In fact, Jesus says all those commandments (as well as all the others) hang on, that is depend on or follow from, these two. If we keep the two, then we will keep the ten, and the way to check that we are keeping the two is to check that we're keeping the ten.

We saw last time that we are to love everybody else as we love ourselves, not just those who love us, and not just those who are similar to us. And we saw that we should start by ensuring that we don't hurt anybody. As some members of the medical profession say, "First do no harm". We derived that from these words written by Paul:

Romans 13v8-10
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow-man has fulfilled the law.
The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbour as yourself."
Love does no harm to its neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.

It's interesting that Paul uses Jesus's teaching about loving everybody, to encourage us to love the members of our local church. Of course, if we should love everybody, then it follows that we should love each other. But Paul goes further, and teaches us that we should particularly love each other:

Galatians 6v34-35
... as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

When we consider these words, we realise two things:

Firstly, we realise that it's not enough to do no harm; we must do good to all people, whenever we have opportunity. There are many ways in which we can do good to others, from charitable giving, to courteous driving, to speaking a cheerful word rather than a grumpy one. But the most good we can ever do another human is to tell him the Good News about Jesus Christ.

Thank God someone loved us enough to tell us.

Some of us may be shy, some may feel unqualified to explain the things of God, some may fear opposition. But if we love our neighbour as much as we love ourselves, we will find a way to communicate the Good News to him whenever we get the chance, and we'll do so with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3v15-16).

Secondly, we realise that we must especially do good to our fellow Christians. Jesus said:

John 13v34-35
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

We must love everybody as much as we love ourselves, but we must love Christians more than we love ourselves. We must love our fellow Christians sacrificially, even to the point of death. Jesus instructs us to love each other in the way He loved us, and He loved us more than he loves Himself. He was willing to die for us, and we must follow His example.

That's asking a lot, isn't it? But we call ourselves Christians. We're people who are seeking, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to become Christ-like. And Jesus Christ said:

John 15v12-14
"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command."

Day by day, we can die for each other, in the sense that we can act according to what's good for the other person, rather than what's good for us. I'm not claiming to be so holy and so loving that I always achieve this, but I pray that I will improve. And I pray that, if I'm put to the ultimate test, I will not fail my God.