The Second-Greatest Commandment

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Default image
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matt 7:12

Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31

It is a simple command that Jesus gives. But within it lies the foundation of everything to follow. "Sensitivity to the humanity of our neighbors, Jesus says here, is the Law and the Prophets, is the OT, is the ethical drift of the Bible."*

"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" (Matt. 22:36-40).

Love God with everything you have and in everything you do. Love others to reflect how you love yourself. This is a gift from God. Jesus places this choice to fulfill the Law through love squarely on our shoulders. We interpret our love-in-action through the filter of our own personhood. How do we want to be honored? How do we define respect? Then we must treat others with that kind of honor and that kind of respect.

But there’s more. Matthew assumes his readers’ awareness of the Law and the Prophets. For our purposes, the Ten Commandments are representative of the Law: the first four deal with our relationship with God or how to love God more completely. The remaining six tell us to honor others, respect life, remain faithful to a spouse, respect other people’s property, not speak falsely of others, and not envy or lust over what belongs to others.

We have an almost automatic tendency to invert this teaching. Too easily we are tempted to treat others as we have been treated—return slight for slight. If someone is rude to me, I look for the opportunity to be rude in return. Revenge, misuse of power, envy all help us use the “Golden Rule” to justify human depravity.

Jesus changed the world by living in love toward humanity. He was honest, direct, merciful, just, worshipful, respectful, and more. His positive attributes changed how people saw the world. It took centuries for Christianity to overtake Rome without an army. It has taken millennia to change people’s attitudes toward differing races and religions. As Christians, we grasp tightly the power of Jesus’ teachings in this passage because we know He will continue to change the world.

The treatment we receive is not at issue. How we treat others is a statement of our Christian character. Jesus’ teachings, even the person of Jesus, become visible to others through our actions. Our Christian character is our witness to others and our gift to God.

*Bruner, Frederick Dale, The Christbook, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 2004, p. 347.