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The great commandments
- Jacob Ninan
A legal expert asked Jesus which the great commandment was (Mt.22:36). His reply was that the great and foremost commandment was to love God with every part of our being. But we notice that He did not stop there but went on to tell them about the second most important commandment (v.37,38). That is to love our fellow human beings just like we love ourselves (v.39). Jesus was indicating that keeping the first commandment would not be complete without keeping the second also.
When we look around at sincere Christians, we find that we sometimes focus on loving God more than everything else or on showing love to fellow human beings. It is possible for us to focus so much on one that we neglect the other. In our single minded pursuit after pleasing God people can be neglected, despised, trampled upon, and pushed out of the way. While we seek to show love to people we may cut corners with some of God's commandments.
But God does not want us to be either way. He wants us to love Him more than everyone and everything else AND love other people too. He wants us to develop and grow in both directions at the same time. He sees these two commandments as two sides of the same coin, so that we cannot really have one without the other. John emphasised this saying that if we did not love our brother whom we could see, we should not imagine that we loved God (1Jn.4:20).
The reason why we fall into one of these two tracks is that our vision is narrowly focused on one of the two goals instead of seeing that they go together. Think of a man who makes it his ambition to live before God, doing everything right in His eyes (Ge.17:1). This is so important to him that he has no time to think about, e.g., whether his actions and attitudes hurt anyone. He has no time to meet the needs of people because he is busy with his Bible studies and prayer meetings. On the other hand, think of another man who is busy doing things to help others in various ways. He is, e.g., thinking up new ways to 'bless' people and perhaps neglects the need to have personal integrity or to find out what the Lord would want him to do.
Jesus scolded the Pharisees for concentrating so much on the exactness of obeying God through their tithes that they missed out on showing compassion, mercy, justice, etc. (Mt.12:7;23:23). He illustrated this with the story of the Good Samaritan where the religious leaders neglected the robbery victim lying on the road. On the other hand He spoke of how unfaithfulness in handling money will block spiritual blessings (Lk.16:11). Social action without the love of God will still bless people. But those who do it will not receive any blessing from God (1Co.3:11-14).
When we love God with all our heart, all that we do will come from the love of Christ that controls us (2Co.5:14,15). That is why it is the first commandment. But something is wrong if our so-called love for God does not lead to blessing and serving others.