God First, Everybody Else Second?

Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’.” (Matt 22: 37-39 NLT).

Recently in church during worship someone said, “The greatest commandment is to love God.” This sounds right to us, but it implies we love God more than others. God first and others second. Is that what Jesus and the apostles taught? We tend to say yes, because it feels spiritual. Also, we might know the KJV translates this verse, “the second (command) is “like unto” (similar to) the first”  We might put the words “second” and “similar” together and conclude the second command is inferior to the first, meaning we should love God more than others. But my Greek lexicon says the Greek word ”like unto” (homoios), often translated “similar”, in this case should be translated “as great as.” The New Living Translation has it right: the second “is equally important.”

“Wait!” you object. “Are you saying we can love God too much?” No, but it’s possible to substitute our love for God for that of loving others.  It’s the kind of piety Jesus encountered. One example was the habit some Jews had of using their tithe to God as an excuse to withhold giving to others. It’s what Jesus meant when he told them, “How terrible for you Pharisees! You give to God the tithe…but you neglect justice…” (Luke 11.42 GNT). The phrase “you neglect justice”, indicates “you mistreat others in the name of your piety.”

Also, some folks might believe it’s our worship of God alone that pleases Him. They raise voice and hands, singing, “I love only You, Jesus”, which seems very spiritual. But the Bible teaches that Christian faith means we are to love God and everyone else, even the unlovely.

In one of his parables the “goats” were shocked that Jesus didn’t let them into heaven. They called Him, “Lord,” showing they believed in Him, but they didn’t practice mercy and justice to others, so they didn’t show love to Jesus either. (Mathew 25: 41-46) The apostle says it this way, ..the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.  (I John 4: 20-21 NASB). No way around it, how we treat others is the barometer that measures our love for God.

John goes on to say, ”And this commandment we have from Him (Christ) is that the one who loves God should love his brother also” This brings up a new point. Who is our brother? Is loving our brother the same as loving our neighbor? We will discuss this in our next post, “The Forgotten Commandment.”

Lord forgive us if we use our love for you as an excuse for not showing kindness, mercy, compassion and love for others, even those who might seem unlovely.

Please join the conversation. “How do you feel about Jesus turning out good Christian people who ignore the plight of the needy or anyone they just don’t like very much?

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