One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. Mark 12:28-34 NIV
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him 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 greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:34-40 NIV
Jesus joins the greatest, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” (Matthew 22:37) with, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” (Leviticus 19:18a). He is telling this teacher of the law that loving our neighbor, treating our neighbor with mercy, love, respect, and honor is a natural outgrowth of our love for God. In the Mark passage of this discussion, the teacher of the law rightly tells us that treating our neighbor as we would treat ourselves is more important than sacrifice. In Proverbs 21:2-3 it is described this way, “A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart. To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.”
The prophets talk about this concept as well. Micah tells us, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God,” Micah 6:8. There are many references in the Old Testament telling us how we are to treat those less fortunate than ourselves. God desires us to, “defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked,” Psalm 82:3-4.
Since the Old and New Testament both can be simply put as love God and love people, what does this look like for us? What does this look like for you? Spend some time thinking about this simple yet complex concept. Challenge yourself to treat people as these verses tell us to. Is there someone in your life who needs defending, who could use financial help, who needs to be encouraged? Think of someone you can love as yourself and put these verses from the Old Testament and the New Testament into practice this week.
By Grace Hunter