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 neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Jesus said this while responding to Pharisees during Holy Week. They were trying to test Him and trap Him, and He would have none of it. He spoke back to them commands from God that were found in their deepest laws; things they would have known by heart. He was doing it to teach them a lesson.
Fast forward: Paul was a Pharisee, and it’s not inconceivable that he had heard of Jesus saying these things from his fellow Pharisees. Jesus’ words had been a challenge to the Pharisees, and it’s logical to assume there was much discussion about them. What Jesus was saying (and Paul re-iterating) was “follow me by loving other people the way I’ve loved you.” It’s really an extension of the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Think about it: Jesus was saying to people who were familiar with torture and persecution, “treat strangers, even your enemies, the way you want to be treated because that’s how God treats you.”
In my opinion, that’s the most practical of all Christian maxims. Most unbelievers, even atheists, understand the concept of harmonious living, of treating others the way we want to be treated. What they may not understand is that this tenet was God-given to Moses in Leviticus, then reiterated and expanded by Jesus in that Golden Rule. It’s nothing new but was spoken into new life at the time of Jesus and Paul.
It applies even more today. Our world is more united by technology yet divided by the benefits it brings. Social media makes it easy to be unkind to others, even when we don’t intend. I’m guilty of this; are you? I’m guilty of saying things, in person and online, that weren’t kind, weren’t helpful, weren’t serving either+ others or Jesus. I’m guilty of not loving my neighbor the way I love myself (which is deeply). I’ve sinned. If we are going to be truly free, going to truly serve others so that they can share in the freedom of Christ, then we need to heed Moses’, Paul’s, and Jesus’ words to love our neighbors as ourselves. In doing so, we’re humbling ourselves and giving glory to God, who makes both our service and our freedom possible.
For further reading: Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 5:43, Matthew 7:12, Matthew 22:37-40, Luke 6:31, Galatians 5:15
Father, forgive my unkindness to Your children. Let me do better today.
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