by Jeff Curtis
A scribe, a Pharisaic lawyer, asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment in the law of Moses (Mark 12:28). In His answer, Jesus spoke to him about love. First, He said, is to love God; and second, we are to love others (Mark 12:30-31).
We are going to focus on the second of these two, the command to love our neighbors as ourselves. In James 2:8 this is called “the royal law,” and in Romans 13:8 it is identified as the fulfillment of the law. In Galatians 5:14 Paul said, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” When Jesus told the rich young ruler to keep the commandments, He specifically mentioned the commandment “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 19:19).
The big question about this important commandment is “How do we love our neighbors as ourselves?”
- Neighborly love is a practical love. We all have experience in loving ourselves; we address our needs and make sure that we have the necessities for living a good life.
- Neighborly love is an active love. This commandment calls for an immediate response. It isn’t about how we feel toward the neighbor (because feelings can vary), but what we do for our neighbor. When we see a neighbor in need, do we help him?
Jesus illustrated this principle in Luke 10:30-37. The parable of the “Good Samaritan.” Unlike the priests and the Levite in Jesus’ story, who “passed by on the other side” when they saw someone in need, this Samaritan demonstrated active love.
At the end of the story, Jesus asked, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robber’s hands?” (Luke 10:36).
The lawyer responded, “The one who showed mercy to him?” (Luke 10:37). Jesus’ final words gave a message to all of us; “Go and do the same” (Luke 10:37). We are not to pass by someone who needs help. Neighborly love is extending more than sympathy.
- Neighborly love is a continual love. This is not a once-in-a-while love; it is a daily love. Each passage in the New Testament that addresses this theme features continuity. Romans 13:8-10 speaks to this.
We could say that the commandment to love others is an outstanding growth of the first and foremost commandment. If we love God with all our hearts, we will love our neighbors as ourselves. Love for our neighbors, results from our love for God.
One who is a good friend will usually have good friends, and he who is a good neighbor will usually have good neighbors. However, as Christians, we are to manifest neighborly love whether or not we have a good neighbors. This is how the love of God affects our daily living.
Obeying God’s Commands
by Jeff Curtis
In Leviticus chapter 19, it begins with the words: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (v.2). About halfway through, the chapter says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord” (v.18). It concludes with “You shall thus observe all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them; I am the Lord” (v.37). To be holy, one had to love his neighbor; and to love his neighbor, he had to obey God’s commands.
What commands? The chapter repeats most of the Ten Commandments and may imply others which are not specifically stated.
The first of the Ten Commandments required the Israelites to have no other God but the Lord, and the second forbid them to make or worship idols (Exodus 20:3,4). Leviticus 19:4 says, “Do not make for yourselves idols or make for yourselves molten gods; I am the Lord your God.” The third commandment forbade taking the Lord’s name in vain (Exodus 20:7); and Leviticus 19:12 says, “You shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of Your God. I am the Lord.” The fourth commandment required God’s people to keep God’s people to keep the Sabbath (Exodus 20:9-11), and Leviticus 19 twice reminded the Israelites to keep God’s Sabbaths (vv.3, 30).
The fifth commandment is “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). Leviticus 19 says; “Everyone of you shall reverence his mother and father.” The sixth commandment is “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). Leviticus 19 doesn’t specifically forbid murder, but it does say, “You are not to act against the life of your neighbor” (19:16) – and that sounds like a law against nature.
The seventh commandment forbids committing adultery (Exodus 20:14). Again, there is no specific law against committing adultery in Leviticus 19, but the chapter shows that God was concerned about sexual behavior of the Israelites, for it contains and deals with the punishment deserved by a man who had sex with a slave woman (vv.20-22).
The eighth commandment is “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15) and the ninth is “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). Leviticus 19:11 covers both commands when it says, “You shall not steal, nor lie falsely, nor lie to one another.” The tenth commandment is “You shall not covet” (Exodus 20:17). No verse in Leviticus 10 forbids coveting, although the chapter requires fairness and generosity toward all (v.9, 10, 35, 36).
Loving a neighbor as oneself begins with keeping God’s commandments, especially those found in the Ten Commandments. With the exception of the Sabbath command, all of these are also found in the New Testament. The principle of love is obvious in the last six of the Ten Commandments, which deal ourselves, we will not murder them, commit adultery with their husbands or wives, steal from them, lie to them, or covet what belongs to them.
Less obvious is the idea that worshipping the Lord alone, refusing to make or worship idols, and not taking God’s name in vain are also ways of showing love toward our neighbors. The first and second commandments are closely linked; those who follow the Lord treat other people right (1John 4:21 – “And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”)