Love God and your neighbor


Matthew 22:34-46

Words, with time, become used up, they lose their meaning and their content. As with everything else, it is the fault of us humans. Wherever we have set foot, whatever we have touched with our hands, we have managed to darken the beauty and the splendor of many things. By abusing words, we have taken away their pureness.

Christ reminds of the most important commandment of all, the commandment of love for God and our neighbor. “On these two commandments,” He says, “hang all he law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:40) The commandment of love is as follows. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

When I talk about love I am always at a loss. I feel that I can never stress enough how vitally important it is for us to go back and embrace this holy virtue. Everyone is talking about love everywhere, yet there is so little of it. It is clear, though, that as much as we need clean air to breath and cool, clear water to drink, as much as we need the brilliant warm sun in order to live, we need love in the same way, in order to survive.

We have all heard about different political and economic powers in the world, recently there has even been talk about superpowers. Yet no one seems to see the obvious: there is no superpower in the world that cannot be toppled and destroyed. This has been proven many times in history, by the small and weak state of Serbia in the First World War against Austro-Hungary. It was proved by Pakistan, Vietnam and other bloody battlegrounds. People have begun to realize that it is far wiser and better to stop and negotiate and to solve things in ways other than bloodshed and force. The use of force is against the Will of God. God is above any force of this world, and He does not look upon force benevolently.

In the dawn of human history, as He was establishing His order on the earth, the Lord proclaimed His love for mankind, “showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments.” (Exodus 20:6). And all that God Incarnate spoke to the people on earth was meant to remind them of what God had already proclaimed to them once and of what has been written in the Scriptures. Christ spoke to the malicious Pharisees in their own language, endeavoring in their dulled consciences to provoke thoughts of Himself as the fulfillment of all that the God-inspired men of the Old Testament prophesied. God’s commandment of love is written at the very beginning of the Holy Scripture literally in the same words in which Christ speaks to the Pharisees. “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Leviticus 19:18)

Why “as yourself,” we might ask, as people often do. Why not more, or even less? Those who do little often talk much, and those who do not really care about the answer usually ask the most questions. The answer to this one is clear. If only we were able to reach that level where we could love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves! Life, however, is full of insane examples that show that we are capable of hating another person more than we love ourselves. In our desire to do evil to someone, we ourselves suffer. By pushing others into the abyss, many fall into it themselves. In a nutshell, “If things are not going well for me, I don’t want my neighbor to be well off either,” is how we reason.

There is another answer as to why we ought to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is because God loves all people equally and as He watches us from His heavenly heights, he places the same value on the souls of every one of us. He will give His final judgment when the time comes and He pleases to do so.

In the same place where Moses wrote down God’s commandment of love, he also wrote about God’s word about love that goes beyond the circle of friends and relations. “The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:34)

In the Fifth book of the Pentateuch, also called Deuteronomy, almost immediately after giving the commandment of love for God, God made known His will through the prophets. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee today, shall be in thine heart.” (Deuteronomy, 6:4-6) God renewed His commandment of love and engraved it into the hearts of men many times over the centuries, for the human heart rejects love very quickly and easily. If only we could nourish love in our hearts for at least as long as we nurture hatred, and if only we remembered the good that was done to us for at least as long as we remember the evil. We tend to forget and minimize good, and as for our mostly irrational hatred, we love to feed it with fabricated arguments and add oil to the fire even when they would have cooled off by themselves with time. In one place in the Holy Scriptures it says that those that love the Lord ought to be “as the sun when he goeth forth in his might.” (Judges 5:31) This is how we ought to be with our fellow men, for “he who does not love his brother whom he sees, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20)

Lord Jesus Christ has spread the limits of love to eternity. “You have heard that it was said: ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you; that you may be sons of your Father in heaven, for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43-45)

In giving us this commandment, Christ confronts us with unbeatable logic: “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do so?” (Matthew 5:46) Love does not seek its own (1 Corinthians 13:5) If we love someone so that we might be loved in return, that is not love, but self-love. Love is not turned inwards. It is turned towards the other, even if this other does not respond to our love. This is Christian love. “Even sinners love those who love them.” (Luke 6:32)

We should be recognizable by our love. Where there is no love, there are no Christians. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) says Christ to His followers, and to us. Vain talk and no actions, this is not love. “greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Finally, the Lord did not give us the choice whether or not to show love for our fellow humans. “These things I command you, that you love one another.” (John 15:17) This is the only way to attain salvation.