Matthew 5:43-48: Love Everyone!
Read: Matthew 5:43-48
“Love thy neighbor as thyself” has been called the “Golden Rule” among other things. This commandment is found in the Old Testament among a plethora of laws concerning how neighbors should interact with one another (Leviticus 19:9-18). It is also among the “Greatest Commandments” that Jesus gives in Matthew 22:34-40. He says that on this command along with loving God “hang” the Law and the Prophets. The idea from the original language of the New Testament is that the Greatest Commandments are like a rope on which the rest of the law is suspended. If the rope is cut, then the everything else comes crashing down. In a manner of speaking, Jesus is saying that it is the essence of the Law and the fulfillment of the Law when one puts it into practice.
But Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount corrects another bad teaching that the people had been taught concerning the Law. They had been taught that their “neighbor” only included a select few people and the rest of the people were their enemies, and it was okay to hate them. This is evidenced by the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. Here, Jesus gives the same commandments from Matthew, but the hearer wanted to “justify himself” by limiting the scope of his neighbor. Jesus shows how the Samaritan was the neighbor to the one in need, which these Jews hated. This is why Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount qualifies what he says concerning loving one’s neighbor with loving ones enemies as well, showing them that the real benefit to loving one’s neighbor comes not from loving those who are most like oneself, rather loving ones that are not like oneself. It is in this context that loving one’s neighbor really plays out.
Paul and James both echo the command in their writings as well. Paul himself says that by following the command that one will fulfill the Law too in much the same way Jesus implies (Romans 13:8-10). James calls the commandment the “Royal Law”, implying that it comes from a king, no other than God himself (James 2:8). While certain aspects of the Law don’t necessarily apply anymore, specifically those related to ceremonial law, this part unequivocally is affirmed by the New Testament and shows that the Greatest Commandment implies that one’s neighbor is everyone, not just a select group of people. Christians today are still under the same law concerning loving one’s neighbor, and do well to fulfill it. In doing so too, one can show the love of God and win one over to God as well!
Lord, help me to love my neighbor!