Two Great Commandments
Jesus was once approached by a lawyer, who asked Him this question: "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus replied: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second like unto it is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matt. 22:35-39).
Here is declared the foundation principle by which men's relationships with God and with one another are to be regulated. That principle is love. It was so recognized in the law of Moses as is plainly shown in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, from which Jesus made his quotations. It is likewise basic and fundamental in the New Covenant through which men must serve God now.
In stressing the principle of love toward God, Jesus did not mean that the sacrifices and other obligations of the Jew were not literally required, nor that disobedience to the gospel would be overlooked by God. He did not mean that a filial attitude of heart or mind upon the part of a sinner will render him approved, without obedience to the things upon which God has conditioned the forgiveness of sin.
Love that is genuine will always be expressed in deeds. The only adequate expression of the sinner's love for God is his full obedience to the things which God has enjoined upon him. He who refuses or neglects such obedience may well expect his profession of love to be rejected with these words: "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? (Luke 6:46).
That love demands obedience is plainly stated in many passages of the New Testament. In John 14:15, Jesus said, "If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments." Again in verse 21 of the same chapter: "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him and will manifest myself unto him." These words are too simple to be misunderstood.
It should also be noted that obedience to God is not only a fruit, but also a root -both an effect and a cause, as shown in the latter part of John 14:21. Our obedience not only expresses adequately our love for God, but as a result it incurs the continuing love and blessings of the Heavenly Father.
The pattern of salvation, through love, as revealed in these passages is this:
1. God loved the sinner and gave His Son as an atonement for sin (John 3:16).
2. When the sinner learns of God's love and the sacrifice made for him, his heart fills with love for God (1 John 4:19), and thus he seeks God's will.
3. Having learned God's will, he hastens to obey the things enjoined upon him.
4. As a consequence of his affection and love for God, expressed by his obedience, he now dwells with the mantleof God's continuing love and favor upon him.
While our love for God cannot be properly shown in rites, manners and works of our own choosing, neither can it be done by a ritualistic performance of the things ordained of God. It must be a full obedience to the expressed will of God, motivated and impelled by a love which will make every sacrifice and endure every hardship which may be laid upon us.
We now turn to a consideration of the second great commandment, namely: Love For Neighbor. As love for God is to be the prompting principle regulating our relationship with God, so must love be the governing principle in our dealings with our fellow-men. As love for God requires action, so does love for neighbor. These rules of action are found in the word of God. Some of them are negative, while others are positive.
The apostle Paul points out how love for neighbor is shown by the observance of negative commands, in Romans 13:8-10. We qpote: "For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not covet, and if there be any other commandment, it is summed up in this word, namely: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neigbor: love therefore is the fulfillment of the law."
From this we learn that love for neighbor requires that one respect his neighbor's wife. She belongs to him. It furthermore requires that he respect his neighbor's life. He must not take it. Likewise his goods and property must be neither coveted nor stolen. These and all other such commandments regulating human relationships are fulfilled in this: "Love worketh no ill to his neighbor."
Of course, love for neighbor also involves certain positive actions. In the first place it demands that we be impartial in our dealings and associations with men whether they be rich or poor, of high or lowly estate. James says: "If ye fulfill the royal law, according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, . . . but if ye have respect of persons, ye commit sin, being convicted by the law as transgressors" (Jas. 2:8-9).
Love for neighbor will also prompt us to share our material blessings with those who are in need. John writes, "Whoso hath this world's goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth" (1 John 3:17, 18.)
The apostle Paul summarizes our love for neighbor as it ought to be expressed in deeds when he said: "Through love be servants one to another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, even in his: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself " (Gal. 5:13, 14). And then again, "So then, as we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of he faith" (Gal. 6:10).
God forbid that we pay mere lip-service to these great responsibilities. Let us never be so presumptuous as to think that we can fulfill them with sentiment and empty words. The test of our love for God and neighbor is in our submission to the laws or commandments, by which these relationships have been regulated. There is no other test. By this, we shall stand or fall in the day of judgment.
Truth Magazine I:1, pp. 1, 17