The Greatest Commandment and the One Like It

Matthew 22:36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Of course!  Why didn’t I ever see it before?

Perhaps you know the greatest commandment is to Love the Lord your God… but have you ever wondered why or how there could even be a second commandment “like it?” 

* * *

Why did Jesus say that?  He was only asked for THE greatest, not the best two out of ten.

So I’ve been pondering “Why?”  In what way is the second like the first? 

I just had a “Could have had a V-8!” type of moment.

My past answer to how the second is “like it” has been: love.  Today, Eureka!  (Eureka is Greek meaning “I have found”)…I have found a new and far deeper perspective on this.  It has to do with the Image of God.  It’s one of those moments where I feel like I’ve seen the train of the LORD’s robe or been given a glimpse of His Glory passing by and I cannot find the words to express the deep place where it has taken me.

Of course, it’s also like knowing there’s a thought of complete brilliance as a gift of God on the other side of a spiritual fog that I’m not quite seeing through.  So if you’ll bear with me, I’ll try to share the V-8 minus the fog and do it with a chart.

I’m a visual person and a chart is the best way I can put a contrast together regarding my old perspective and my new perspecitve on how the second commandment to Love your neighbor as yourself is like the first, Love the Lord your God.

Old Perspective—Love

New Perspective—God

The most important and joining bond is the love–after all, God is love The most important and joining bond is God– and God is love
When we fully love God, we will be inspired to love others—it’s the horizontal outflow of a vertical   relationship of love.  It is the pouring overflow of our cups of love…when we’re filled and know the overflow, it pours out to others. When we fully love God, we will love His Image in others—it’s all vertical and related to loving God and worshipping Him.  We see His Image in every human being, just as Jesus did.  It doesn’t mean we’re divine, but it means we endeavor to see this quality of mankind given at Creation.
When we love God, we will love our enemies.  It is an   empowering we get to love the enemies we see in our midst because we follow Christ who loved us while we were yet sinners.  We follow Him. When we love God and love His Image in others, we don’t see enemies at all!  We only see His Image that all men are made in.  It’s how Jesus could save us while we were yet sinners.  He saw the Image of His beloved Father in every human being He encountered.  He loved the Father.
When we love God, we will love others in actions and in truth as service to God.  Our faith without deeds is dead.  Our love and unity are evidence to a watching world of our being disciples.  They will know we are Christians by our love. When we love God and love His Image in all other people, we will love them in actions and in truth   because we see God’s Image in them.  We will offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is our spiritual act of worship.  Loving our enemies is actually worship of God because it gives worth to His Image even in the lives of sinners.
The second command is like the first because of love.  Love is something we have the power to do because of what He did.  It’s the job of the Holy Spirit to empower us to love. The second command is like the first because He is the Lord.  Period.  We have no power on our own to love and not to love.  It’s the Image of God we see.  If we claim to love God and this is the truth, we will love His Image in all other people as well as in ourselves.  We cannot help it because our love for God is real and true.

My old perspective of love—while not biblically indefensible—seems to be one lonely horse of a two-horse team.  It is a rather surface-deep notion compared to the Image of God.  Jesus didn’t die to save our flesh…or even our souls.  Our flesh and our souls still put too much credit on us!

Jesus died to save the Image of God in as many people as possible. It’s why He is patient not wanting any to perish.

If love alone was the key, then wouldn’t God have had Jesus die to save puppies and parakeets and kittens and the angels—in addition to people, because God is love?  God’s love isn’t limited to people, yes?  And His love is not limited to believers, yes? 

For God so loved the world (John 3:16).

But if God’s Image is the key, then it explains the vast importance of mankind to God while we were yet sinners!  Our importance is not because we are men and women, but because of God and who He is!  We are men and women made uniquely in the Image of God, unlike the angels or other created things.  It is His Image that He is reclaiming!

Therefore the second command is like the first and the new command is actually very old.  It goes all the way back to God’s decision to make mankind at all…and to make us in His Image.  Consider these:

1 John 2:7 Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. 8 Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. 9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble (emphasis added).

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother (emphasis added).

How well do we see the Image of God in our fellow man? 
Do we love God by loving our neighbors as ourselves?


For further study, consider these Scriptures:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. 6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

1 John 3:10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. 11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

1 John 3: 16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20 whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

1 John 4:15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Categories Articles and Devotionals, Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on November 3, 2012

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