The Law of Love - A Look at the Two Greatest Commandm
"...'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?' And He said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.'” 'Matt 22:36-40
To many looking in from outside the faith Christianity is just a set of rules and regulations. I can not speak for anyone else but for myself, I have to admit I am often unsure on the "do..."s and "don't..."s, especially when denominations start disagreeing with each other it can just become complicated.
It was a great kindness, therefore, when Jesus condensed all the laws down into two which are easy to remember.
Of course they do not make the rest of the laws obsolete; in fact the other laws become more important because they give the all important detail and guidance that we need to learn how to love God and man. When we see the law in this light it becomes easier to understand. It is like to learning to drive; you could study all the mechanics and know all the road rules but if you don't have a set route or direction it is purposeless.
Who do you find easier to love?
“ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. ”
In my head I know that God is perfect, our maker and saviour whereas humans are flawed and often just plain mean but it still seems easier to fix our affections on what feels tangible. Loving and prioritising God when you can't see Him requires faith. Also God is so big and powerful whereas making coffee in the morning sometimes requires more cognitive abilities than I possess- what could I possibly give?
As a mother of a young child I believe that parenthood has helped me to understand this better now. I don't depend on my baby for anything; he doesn't need to feed me or clothe me. However there are two things that he can give me:
Firstly his affection and loyalty, a cuddle or smile mean the world and make my heart smile. God makes it clear that he cherishes our affection also. He wants us to find joy in Him and to participate in a two-way relationship with us.
“I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me." Prov 8:17
"Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant and praise is becoming." Psalm 147:1
The second thing that I crave from my child is his trust and well-being, I spend a lot of time telling him 'No' to things that I perceive as dangerous or harmful (e.g. Standing up using a very rickety table, touching the hot radiator and eating my husband’s shoes...I have no idea why he thought the last one was a good idea but he was very determined.) Obviously at his young age when I tell him to stop something he doesn't understand it is out of my love for him and for his own good, that I am not vindictive but more than anything don't want to see him hurt.
As a loving and caring parent the Bible makes it clear that God wants the best for us; His love was so great that He died in order to give us freedom from all our mistakes. Surely the greatest return we can give beyond our affections, is to receive and revel in His gift. The Bible has so much guidance and beyond that when we listen to the Holy Spirit we often feel a red light resonating deep in our gut when something isn't quite right. The Nos that we receive from God are not spiteful or out of a lack of love but from His knowing abundantly more than we do about what is good for us and what is healthy and wanting the very best for us. Apart from praise all He asks of us is to trust Him with our well being well-being.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding." Prov 3:5
If we believe that God truly desires our wellbeing and understand that as His motive it gives us a greater understanding of His jealousy. When He asks us to have no other Gods who does that benefit more? When we walk away from God and decide to trust in things that are flawed we will get hurt.
"Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." 1 John 2:15
We need God more than He needs us and when we replace Him with empty substitutes it is us we are harming more than anyone else.
“Those who regard vain idols
Forsake their faithfulness..." Jon 2:8
‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’
If you manage to work out the first commandment this should be a natural extension. When you love God what is important to Him will become important to you and what is more important to Him than people?
Loving the lovable is easy, our friends, family (most of them) and anyone with a smile and/or cup of coffee to offer has my vote – no questions asked.
It is sometimes easy to partially love the less loveable; we can spare a kind word, a little patience and maybe even time if they catch us on the right day at the right time but is that far enough? If not how far should we go?
The commandment calls us to love our neighbour 'as ourself'; that seems like it might hurt. We naturally like to put ourselves first.
"For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. 4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness." Rom 12:3-8
We may well try to deny it but there is an unspoken social hierarchy that the world holds to which often seeps into our thinking and dictates how we think of and relate to other people. Some people we think of as better than us, and instead of being excited in all the gifts that God has given them and all they have achieved, we either compete with them or latch on to them hoping that their victories will boost our status by association. Others we feel are below us for one reason or another and instead of celebrating all they are and being grateful to know them we think ourselves kind for the fact we condescended to relate to them. This is not love.
“….I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”
I am beginning to learn that if I want to learn to love I need to stop thinking so much of myself and take myself less seriously; when we think too highly of ourselves it is easy to get offended when people don't give us the honour we think we are owed and we are easily threatened.
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Cor 13:4-7
It does not come naturally but something that I have found really works is to pray for anyone that you are struggling to love, it can help greatly to see them through God’seyes and not our own and you find yourself beginning to want God’s best for them.
However hard it is to live a life full of love when you do manage the impact it can make is immeasurable. Often people live a life of self- defence but if your relationships become places of safety you will be surprised to see people beginning to drop their guards and daring to care back.
"...But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love." 1 Cor 13:13
Distribution of the 10 Commandments
Love the Lord your God
Love your neighbour
You shall have no other gods before Me.
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.
Honor your father and your mother...
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain...
You shall not murder.
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.