In Mark 12:28-31 we are told that when asked which is the “first” commandment Jesus says, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall 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, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Love is the basis of the teachings of Jesus—loving God and loving our neighbor. But who is my neighbor? The short answer is “everyone.”
On the night of the Last Supper Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15). Of course we are to keep the Ten Commandments, but the Jews say there are actually 613 commandments in the law... When Jesus says, “keep MY commandments” what does he mean? According to 1 John 3:23 we read, “And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” And again on the night of the Last Supper he says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you (See also: 1 Jn. 3:11). No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13). Note the similarity of this to 1 John 3:16: “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.”
Another text to consider is: James 2:15-16—“If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” This is related to 1 John 3:18 where John writes, “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” And both of these texts brought to mind my favorite chapter in The Desire of Ages—chapter 70: “The Least of These My Brethren.” In discussing the judgment scene in Matthew 25:31-46, Sister White says, “When the nations are gathered before Him, there will be but two classes, and their eternal destiny will be determined by what they have done or have neglected to do for Him in the person of the poor and the suffering.
“In that day Christ does not present before men the great work He has done for them in giving His life for their redemption. He presents the faithful work they have done for Him.” (DA 637)—did you get that? More than this, she quotes 1 John 4:7: “Everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” And then in the next paragraph writes, “Among the heathen are those who worship God ignorantly, those to whom the light is never brought by human instrumentality, yet they will not perish. Though ignorant of the written law of God, they have heard His voice speaking to them in nature, and have done the things that the law required. Their works are evidence that the Holy Spirit has touched their hearts, and they are recognized as the children of God.” (DA 638)—do these words apply to loving Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims?
1 John 4:9-10: “God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins”—by this time the early church saw the death of Jesus as an atoning sacrifice—John the Baptist’s testimony in John 1:29 is: “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” This was a theological reflection on Jesus’ death as the end of animal sacrifice which reaches it most detailed expression in the book of Hebrews.
Then we read, “God lives in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 Jn. 4:12b)—or brought to maturity in us. Perfection is not the result of keeping every requirement of the law and the testimonies in their minutia, but rather in loving as God did—loving all, giving all, and dying for all. So the question is not, “How perfect is am I?” but rather “How much do I love?”
“Those who abide in love (all of those who abide in love) abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world” (1 Jn. 4:17)—Wow—we are Christ’s body in the world! And more than this, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment”(1 Jn. 4:18)—and we’re not going to be punished!
Note this: Those who say, “I love God,,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also” (1 Jn. 4:20-21).—How much do you love gays and lesbians? If you have a hard time loving these people, then your love as not been perfected—it has not matured enough so that your love reflects God who loves us all.
So the bottom line for all of us is that we love one another as God has loved us…
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/1802