The Greatest Commandment
What does it mean to love God and love your neighbour?
Jesus was once asked ‘Teacher which is the greatest commandment in the law?’ Rather than pick one specific commandment Jesus summarised the whole Jewish law in two principles – ‘love God and love others.’
In both the Old and New Testaments, love along with such attributes as kindness, forgiveness and faithfulness all show God’s commitment to His people. The Bible teaches that God ‘so loved the world’ and therefore as they believe that people are made in God’s image, Christians also believe that people are made to love both God and others.
Christians also believe that Jesus shows God’s great love for all people through his teachings and the way he lived, died and rose again. It is because of Jesus, Christians believe, that everyone can know God personally and through knowing Him this changes the way a person lives and treats others.
It is believed that God’s love requires a response. His love seeks to bring everyone together and Christians believe that God’s love can help overcome the issues that divide families, communities and even countries. The way a person approaches another should reflect God’s love – St. Thomas Aquinas called it “amor benevolentiae” a love that shows great care. This kind of love can also be described using the Greek word “agape” – which means a divine love.
Jesus expressed love for God and others in a number of ways throughout his ministry. Jesus ate with tax collectors and others who at the time were considered to be “sinners.” He touched and healed those who, because of the way they were living or because of something that was wrong with them, were considered social outcasts. Jesus did this even though he was harshly criticised by the religious leaders of the day. The gospel of John tells us that Jesus’ said that, “The greatest love a person can have for his friends is to give his life for them” (John 15:13). Christians believe that Jesus demonstrated this love himself through his death on a cross. Even when the cost is high, Jesus taught how God’s love can be shown to everyone, including those who are considered enemies.