The Second Great Commandment Applied to the Statesman

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The question continues to be

The Second Great Commandment to us as humans is: 

You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39).

The command “Love your neighbor” is generally quoted out of context. While it is true that we are commanded to love our neighbor, this instruction is much richer and deeper than it appears on the surface. And it has powerful application to Government decision-makers charged with using the authority at their disposal to improve the lives of their people. Clearly, the focus of this command is to look beyond ourselves to others. However, in an effort to understand how much more powerful this teaching is than it appears on the surface, let us look at this command in its context:

An expert in the law, asked [Jesus] a question to test Him: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:34-40).

There are three primary words in Greek, the primary language in which the New Testament is written, which are all translated into the one English word “love”: 

1. eros = sexual passion, based on physical attraction. This word is not used in the New Testament. 

2. phileo = brotherly love, mutual kindness, friendship. 

3. agapē = a love for the other party that is a sincere concern for them not based on what they can do for us in return; often described as “unconditional love”. This word appears nowhere else in Greek literature other than in the New Testament. 

Instinctively, we might have expected God to have used the second – brotherly love, mutual kindness – to define the love we are expected to bestow upon our neighbor. Surprisingly, Jesus chose the third – agapē as the love employed in this command and defined further in God’s instruction manual:

Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone, you will always be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

Returning to God’s Great Commands as spoken by Jesus:“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And “Love your neighbor as yourself,” clearly, we are to love God first before we can begin to love anyone else. But, how are we to love God? In a re-statement of the Great Commandment, we are to: 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind (Luke 10:27).

We are to love God with our total being and its many facets — heart, soul, strength, mind — emotions, passion, our spirit, physical energy, mentally.

We gain a picture of the love we are to exert by looking at the love God exerts toward us: 

We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

What does God’s love for us look like? 

We need have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly; His perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what He might do to us. If we are afraid, it is for fear of what He might do to us and shows that we are not fully convinced that He really loves us (1 John 4:18).

His love for us teaches us what love really looks like. It is a model for the way we are to love Him. Then, based upon this,

Love your neighbor as yourself. 

“As yourself” — we are to love ourself with the same kind of love God has for us and with the same kind of love we are to exercise toward God Himself — heart, soul, strength, mind. We are to love ourselves and admire ourselves as the unique and amazing creation that we are. We are do this as a prerequisite and a model for the love we are to exert toward others.

What does loving ourself look like? God does not expect us to love ourself with a selfish love. We are to love ourself with the same kind of love that God exerts toward us and that we are to exert toward Him. We are to love ourself with our total being — heart, soul, strength, mind, displaying our respect for the amazing creation He has made us.

How does loving God help us to love ourself? As we love God and get to know Him, we begin to understand what an amazing creation He made when He made each of us. We are to treasure ourself as a unique, special creation of God and to treasure what God has made, even if we can see imperfections in ourself. At the same time, when we know that God has adopted us into His family, we must recognize that He is making us into the image of His Son Jesus. When He appears, we will be conformed to the image of Jesus:

For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:29).

We are a special and unique creation made in the image of the Creator of the universe by that Creator. We are a creation that He is continuing to work on until we become like Jesus. This should also motivate us to allow Him to work on any imperfections we see within ourself.

Let us pause and reflect: Can we love our neighbor without loving ourself in this way first? How does loving ourself help us to love our neighbor? It is only as we learn to view ourself as a special, unique creation of God, done so out of love by God, that we can begin to recognize our fellow human as a special, unique creation of God, done so out of love by God, and to treasure them with all their shortcomings, with the confidence that the Holy Spirit can work in their lives to continue to re-make them into the image of Jesus. And recognizing that supporting them in this journey is one of the most loving things we can do.

APPLICATION TO THE GOVERNMENT DECISION-MAKER. If I love myself as much as God commands me, what would my life look like? If I love myself as God intends, can I not do my best to help provide the best quality of life for my neighbor – those I serve? Do I not need God’s power in my life to be able to love Him, myself and my neighbor in the way He desires?