The second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39

This Jesus-statement was made about God’s greatest command. The Jewish people were big into counting God’s commands and listing them in order of importance. The question probably was an attempt to drive a wedge between Jesus and his popularity with many.

Jesus said God’s greatest command was to love Him with all one’s being, and the second—similar to that—was to love others as you love yourself. Both of those are extremely challenging!

Love others as you love yourself? Is this an urging to selfishness? Is it an attempt to use selfishness as a measurement of love?

This statement is first found in Leviticus 19:18. It is repeated by Paul in Romans 13:9, 10 and Galatians 5:14, and by James in James 2:8. There seemed to be concern by some Jewish Christians that Christianity failed to keep God’s commands. They were used to structure—temple, rituals, lists of dos and don’ts, centuries-old traditions, the ancient stances of their elders declared in oral laws, the customs of forefathers, and Jewish ways. Christianity did not have a temple, rituals, lists of dos and don’ts, stances of the elders expressed in oral laws, customs of forefathers, or a Christian way of doing things. After all, early Christians met in homes, not in a temple; they did good as did Jesus; they loved God and people. Gentile and Jewish Christians often differed. Christianity seemed much too encompassing and tolerant to be anything like Jewish former interpretation of religion or view of God. Surely, if they were just Christian, they would miss something basic.

Paul said not so if they understood Jesus Christ. If Christians loved God with all their being, and demonstrated their love for God in their kindness to people, nothing God wants of us will be ignored. We will become the people God always wanted.

Read Leviticus 19:9-18. It was about the way they would show kindness to people. The person who belonged to Jesus Christ showed kindness to people. That began by being kind to Christians. Selfishness indulges self at others’ expense. Christianity serves others. Serve! Godliness is shown in godly service to others!

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 26 July 2009

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