Loving our Neighbour as Ourselves (Second Commandment) (Matthew 22:34-40) (Part 1)

The Text

Matthew 22:34-40 (NIV) “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the Law, tested Him (Jesus) with this question: Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? 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 the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Mark 12:28-31):

Love Neighbour

The Second Commandment is from an obscure Commandment in Leviticus 19:18b (NIV) “Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39):

  • The Hebrew word translated “love” in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 describes an act of will characterised by dedication, commitment, and choice.
  • The Greek term used for “love” in Matthew 22:37-39 is the verb of intelligent, purposeful, committed love.
  • Putting both the Hebrews and the Greek terms together – Love is a Choice, commitment, dedication, intelligent, and purposeful.

Thus, “love God, love neighbour” is never a “half-hearted” commitment. It is a choice, commitment, dedication, intelligent and purposeful:

  • Jesus goes further and reinforces that “love for God” cannot be divorced from our “love for our neighbour,” by quoting Leviticus 19:18b, He places it alongside the First Commandment of “Love God.”
  • This is evidenced by the pairing of the Second Commandment (“love neighbour”) alongside the First Commandment in Mark’s account – “There is no commandment greater than these (Mark 12:31b, NIV).
  • Jesus gives the Second Commandment – “Love your neighbour as yourself,” even though the Lawyer did not ask for it. The reason is that the First Commandment: “Love God” cannot be seen or understood without the demonstration – our love for our neighbour. Love is an active experience, not inactive and dormant.
  • In “loving our neighbours as ourselves” the best of us come forth in the very act of loving.
  • The New Commandment to “love one another” (John 13:34-35) helps us handle human relationships and treat people the way God treats us.

Both the Hebrew and the Greek make it clear that loving God and neighbour is a choice. This is evident by the fact that loving God and loving neighbours is used as an imperative (or command) in Matthew 22:37-39. To love God is not only to “have good feelings about Him,” but genuine love is a choice, involving the will as well as the heart, whether we feel good or not is secondary.

To love our neighbours as much as we love ourselves is a challenge – because people are flawed, imperfect, needy beings. Loving people is hard when they cannot (or worse, they refused) to return our love. It is even harder when they hurt us. But we must remember this: Loving people is a choice to be made and a command to be obeyed before it becomes a feeling to be felt. The feeling comes or it might never come. But we must still act in love.

A loving relationship involves: (1) Commitment and loyalty; (2) Trust and respect; (3) Knowing and sharing. This also permeates the New Testament – 1John 4:20-21 (NIV) “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. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

Love of Self

Leviticus 19:18b (NIV) “Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39). There is a clear relationship between “loving one’s neighbour” and “self-love” (acceptance of oneself). The Godly loves of self-come from knowing three things:

  • That we are God’s Creation – “Made in His image and likeness” (Genesis 1:26a).
  • That we are the “children of God” and the objects of His love – Romans 8:16 (NIV) “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirits that we are God’s children.”
  • That “love of self” stirs a strong self-image, confidence, and assurance; this is pleasing unto the Lord

The measure of our “love of self” = “acceptance of ourselves” (Matthew 22:39) and not “lover of ourselves” (2Timothy 3:1-4) will be the measure we are able to love our neighbours.

To be continued….. Stay tuned…..

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