The Second Great Commandment

Introduction

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40)

And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:29-31)

The Son of God stated in these two passages that the second great commandment is loving our neighbor as ourselves, “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” “And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Now, some have tried to argue that since He was speaking to a lawyer and to a scribe, “Then one of them, which was a lawyer” (Mat 22:35), “And one of the scribes came” (Mar 12:28), that He wasn’t commanding this to His own servants and followers. However, both passages in Matthew and Mark also record His responses to the Pharisees and Sadducees that certainly do apply to His own.

The Pharisees tried to trick Him with a question about paying taxes: “Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk … Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Mat 22:15,21); “And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words … Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mar 12:13,17). Simply because Christ spoke this to the Pharisees, we don’t use that as an excuse for not paying our taxes. Plus, Paul even commanded paying our taxes and loving our neighbor in the same passage, “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour … Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Rom 13:6,9).

Likewise, the Sadducees told Christ a conundrum they hoped would cause Him to deny bodily resurrection from the dead: “The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection … But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Mat 22:23,31-32); “Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection … And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living” (Mar 12:18,26-27). And because He was responding to the Sadducees, we don’t use that to deny the resurrection.

Furthermore, the second great commandment was also restated by both Paul and James, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Rom 13:9; Gal 5:14; Jas 2:8). They certainly didn’t misunderstand Christ. And this commandment also agrees with Christ’s own commandment of love, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Mat 7:12), “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luk 6:31).

Finally, if we’re not commanded to keep the second great commandment, then neither are we commanded to keep the first: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Mat 22:37-38); “The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” (Mar 12:29-30). If we’re not commanded to love our neighbor, then we’re not commanded to love God either.

The issue some have with understanding any of Moses’ commandments mandated upon us by Christ is that it supposedly would be placing us under the Law of Moses. But that logic doesn’t follow simply because morality has never changed. Christ defining and restating the same morality commanded by Moses doesn’t place us under the Old Covenant. The intrinsic morality commanded upon God’s people has always been the same whether under the Old Covenant or under the New.

Looking into a mirror

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. (James 1:22-25)

When James told us to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only,” he was referring to the commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock …And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand” (Mat 7:24, 26). Jesus Himself taught In His Sermon on the Mount that if we’ve heard what He said but don’t do it, we’ll be destroyed like a house in a storm that was built upon sand. And everything He said in His Sermon, He summarized in the one commandment of love, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Mat 7:12).

James’ analogy of looking into a mirror addresses specifically this law of love as taught by Christ in the parable of the Good Samaritan. A priest and a Levite saw the wounded man but passed by without helping him, “And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.” (Luk 10:31-32). This is what James meant by “For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way.

Of course when we look into a mirror we see our own face, “beholding his natural face in a glass.” And likewise, when we see our neighbor in need we see ourselves! We know what we would want done to us if we were the one laying by the road wounded, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” Therefore, this priest and Levite were seeing themselves when they saw this Samaritan, yet went their way, “For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way.

James coined the term “perfect law of liberty” for this law of love, “But whoso looketh into the perfect [teleios 5046] law of liberty.” It’s “perfect” in the sense of “thorough” or “comprehensive” because it treats everyone the same without showing any discrimination or favoritism, “For if ye love them which love you … And if ye salute your brethren only … Be ye therefore perfect [teleios 5046], even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect [teleios 5046]” (Mat 5:46,47,48). And it’s “liberty” because Christ set God’s people free from the bondages imposed by the law of Moses—primarily the avoidance of all other ethnic people groups, “Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” (Jhn 4:9).

Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan is an example of the second great commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself” (Luk 10:27). It’s “perfect” love that is at “liberty” from the bondages under the law of Moses. And James again mentioned “the law of liberty” after having quoted the second great commandment, “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well … So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.” (Jas 2:8, 12).

Who is my neighbor?

The lawyer that questioned Jesus about the second great commandment was simply trying to justify himself for having not kept it, “But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?” (Luk 10:29). He hadn’t been treating everyone equally and was hoping Jesus would define that commandment in a narrower sense, therefore justifying his own discriminatory actions toward others. But Jesus forced him to define his neighbor by himself because the “neighbor” in His parable wasn’t the receiver but the giver, “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?” (Luk 10:36). If this Jewish lawyer had been the person wounded on the side of the road about to die unless someone happened to pass by and help, he wouldn’t care who it was that stopped—a fellow Jew, a Samaritan, or a barbarian. Our definition of neighbor tends to relax when we find ourselves on the recipient side.

The reciprocal relationship between the giver and receiver of mercy is like a mirror reflection, “a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself” (Jas 1:23-24). When we see our neighbor, we see ourselves. Therefore, when we don’t help our neighbor in need, why should we be helped when we’re in need? When we disqualify our neighbor, we disqualify ourselves.

Christ’s commandment, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men [anthropos 444] should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Mat 7:12), “And as ye would that men [anthropos 444] should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luk 6:31), isn’t the family and friends plan! The Greek anthropos is “mankind” or “humans” in general. Therefore, we should do all things to anthropos because we would want anthropos to do all things to us. In other words, if we don’t care who it is that helps us when we’re in dire need, we shouldn’t care who it is we help when they’re in dire need. It’s about anthropos or all people in general.

Our neighbor isn’t strictly our fellow brethren in the body of Christ. In His Sermon on the Mount, the problem Jesus addressed wasn’t that God’s people were loving everyone the same but needed to love their brethren only—it was that they were loving their brethren only! “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?” (Mat 5:46-47).

Under the law of Moses, “neighbor” was defined primarily as God’s people, “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Lev 19:18). However, within the same passage God’s people were commanded to love the stranger the same way, “And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself” (Lev 19:33-34).

The Law also stated that God loves the stranger, “For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye therefore the stranger” (Deu 10:17-19). And Jesus commanded us to be complete in our love as God is complete in His love, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Mat 5:48). Since He loves the stranger, we’re to be perfect like Him and love the stranger also.

James said, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (Jas 1:27), and many times the Law listed the stranger right alongside the fatherless and widows: “the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger” (Deu 10:18); “the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow” (Deu 14:29); “the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow” (Deu 16:11); “the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow” (Deu 16:14); “the stranger, nor of the fatherless; nor take a widow’s raiment” (Deu 24:17); “the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow” (Deu 24:19); “the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow” (Deu 24:20); “the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow” (Deu 24:21); “the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow” (Deu 26:12); “the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow” (Deu 26:13); “the stranger, fatherless, and widow” (Deu 27:19); “the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow” (Jer 7:6); “the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow” (Jer 22:3); “the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger” (Zec 7:10).

Furthermore, our neighbor is also our enemies, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Mat 5:43-44), “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom 12:20-21). David was the greatest example in the Old Testament of loving his enemies. He loved his father-in-law Saul who tried to kill him, and loved his son Absalom who tried to usurp his throne. Our enemies are anthropos just like ourselves.

Finally, our neighbor is anyone and everyone we happen come across each day by chance, “And by chance there came down a certain priest that way” (Luk 10:31). It’s the people we’re around at our job, when we’re shopping at a store, and when we’re away on vacation. It’s the people around us in traffic driving selfishly—speeding, tailgating, and cutting in front of us. And it’s those we encounter over the internet, whether we’re communicating with them or about them.

Obviously, there’s a hierarchy of importance in loving others. We must love God and the Son of God first, then our spouse, our family, our fellow brethren in the Lord, and finally everyone else. But the love we’re commanded to show toward our neighbor, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” isn’t to the same degree as we must show toward our own spouse, “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies” (Eph 5:28). A husband must meet his wife’s needs as his own body but certainly not his neighbors in this same way. He’s not obligated to pay the medical bills of everyone in his neighborhood! This wasn’t how “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” was understood and practiced by God’s people under the Old Covenant and the same is true under the New Covenant.

Mercy rejoices against judgment

The second great commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Jas 2:8), is the “law of liberty,” and James said we will be judged by it, “So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” (Jas 2:12-13). Christ’s concluding point in His parable of the Good Samaritan was showing mercy to our neighbor, “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him.” (Luk 10:36-37). Loving our neighbor is helping others when they’re in desperate need and it’s in our power to help—i.e. when they’re at our mercy. But if we haven’t shown mercy, we won’t be shown mercy either.

On the day of judgment, we all will be at Christ’s mercy to either allow us into His Kingdom or to be banished to annihilation. Therefore, He gives us many opportunities in this life to show mercy to others so that we’ll be shown mercy on that day. If we haven’t been forgiving, we won’t be forgiven: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Mat 6:14-15); “But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mar 11:26). How we’ve treated others, likewise is how we’ll be treated by our Father.

Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. (Matthew 18:32-35)

Fulfilling all the law

Christ stated toward the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Mat 5:17), then concluded toward the end, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Mat 7:12). What He commanded embodies and fulfills all the morality of Moses and the prophets. Furthermore, He stated the same about the first and second great commandments, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Mat 22:37-40).

Paul and James also agreed about the one law of love fulfilling all laws, yet approached it from two different angles: “For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Rom 13:9); “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Gal 5:14); “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well … For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill.” (Jas 2:8,10-11).

Paul said keeping one law keeps all the laws, while James said breaking one of the laws breaks all the laws. It’s the same conclusion reached two different ways. Since all the laws are one, then one broken is the one broken. James wasn’t saying that righteousness under the Law of Moses meant keeping it perfectly without ever sinning. That line of teaching discourages righteous living altogether, “Well, we can’t do it anyway, so why even try?” Both Paul and James were simply reiterating what Christ said, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Christ’s law

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19-20)

Christ preceded His commandments in His Sermon on the Mount with this statement about the righteous standard of living and teaching of the scribes and Pharisees. Their lives fell short of the righteousness God required in the Law of Moses and they taught the same to others. But Christ mandated that unless our righteousness meets the standard He was about to teach in His Sermon, we won’t be entering the kingdom of heaven—no exceptions.

The repeated pattern through the rest of chapter five is Christ quoting what the scribes and Pharisees had been saying and teaching to God’s people about the Law of Moses, contrasted by what He was now saying and teaching about it: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time … But I say unto you” (vs. 21-22); “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time … But I say unto you” (vs. 27-28); “It hath been said … But I say unto you” (vs. 31-32); “Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time … But I say unto you” (vs. 33-34); “Ye have heard that it hath been said … But I say unto you” (vs. 38-39); “Ye have heard that it hath been said … But I say unto you” (vs. 43-44). He wasn’t contrasting His sayings with the morality of the Law but with the morality that the scribes and Pharisees were teaching about the Law. He upheld the moral standard of the Law in His Sermon and defined it succinctly as it pertains to the very thoughts and intents of the heart. He was defining the morality in the Law and commanding that morality by His sayings, “these least commandments” (Mat 5:19), “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them” (Mat 7:24), “And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not” (Mat 7:26).

The Law of Moses didn’t create morality but codified it. For example: it didn’t become morally evil to kill once the sixth commandment was given from Mount Sinai—it has always been evil since the beginning, “For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” (1Jo 3:12). When Christ quoted the sixth commandment “Thou shalt not kill” (Mat 5:21), He wasn’t placing us under the Law of Moses. He was defining, upholding, and enforcing the very moral righteousness of loving one another that had been true from the beginning. And that morality isn’t just the action but the very thoughts of the heart, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer” (1Jo 3:15). Christ defining and endorsing the moral commandments from the Law of Moses upon God’s people as His own commandments makes them His own commandments. It’s not placing people under the Law of Moses but under His law.

His statements about the Law and the prophets, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Mat 5:17) “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Mat 7:12), formed the bookends of His own commandments in between. And He defined and commanded the morality of the Law as it pertains to the heart, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Mat 5:8), “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Mat 5:28), “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mat 6:21).

Morality from the heart that Christ commanded in His Sermon is what the Law and the prophets had always taught. The Old Testament is replete with such statements: “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5); “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him” (Lev 19:17); “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deu 6:5); “But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it” (Deu 30:14); “Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you” (1Sa 12:24); “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1Sa 16:7); “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him” (2Ch 16:9); “If mine heart have been deceived by a woman, or if I have laid wait at my neighbour’s door” (Job 31:9); “He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart” (Psa 15:2); “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psa 51:10); “Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness” (Psa 95:8); “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Pro 3:5); “I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer 17:10); “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer 31:33); “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh” (Eze 11:19); “And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart” (Zec 7:10).

As Jesus quoted, defined, and commanded two of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt not kill” (Mat 5:21), “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Mat 5:27), He quoted and commanded “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mat 22:39; Mar 12:31). He had also defined this commandment in His teaching, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Mat 7:12), “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luk 6:31). Paul and James likewise restated and commanded “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Rom 13:9; Gal 5:14; Jas 2:8).

We owe the debt of love

He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. … Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought [opheilo 3784] to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. (John 13:4-5,13-15)

We are to love each other after the example of love that He gave on this occasion. Washing dirty feet was a job consigned to the lowest servant of any house. And although Jesus is the greatest, He humbled Himself to do what was esteemed least.

Keep in mind that Jesus not only washed the feet of eleven but all twelve—including Judas Iscariot. The Lord Jesus Christ with all things under His feet, for a moment, stooped Himself under Judas’ feet. He loved His enemy with the same love as all the others. Though He had known from the beginning that Judas would betray Him, “For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.” (Jhn 6:64), He hadn’t treated him any differently than the others. We know this because when He finally broke the news to them, they didn’t have a clue about whom He spoke, “When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake.” (Jhn 13:21-22). They didn’t all point to Judas and say, “It’s Judas! We knew there must be a reason you were treating him differently.”

This kind of love that humbles oneself to that of a lowly servant, even serving our enemies, isn’t just a suggestion or good advice. After having washed His disciples’ feet, He commanded this same example of love to the remaining eleven: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (Jhn 13:34); “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (Jhn 15:12). He had told them, “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought [opheilo 3784] to wash one another’s feet” (Jhn 13:14).

The Greek opheilo carries the meaning of a debt that is owed out of duty: “But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed [opheilo 3784] him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest [opheilo 3784]” (Mat 18:28); “There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed [opheilo 3784] five hundred pence, and the other fifty” (Luk 7:41); “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted [opheilo 3784] to us” (Luk 11:4); “So he called every one of his lord’s debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou [opheilo 3784] unto my lord?” (Luk 16:5); “We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty [opheilo 3784] to do” (Luk 17:10).

The mindset of a servant isn’t to receive a profit or wages for his work, “We are unprofitable servants.” Servants recognize that everything they do is out of duty for what they owe their lord, “we have done that which was our duty to do.” We’re indebted to our Lord to do everything He commanded, and since He commanded us to love one another, we owe the debt of love out of duty to Him. This is what Paul taught:

Owe [opheilo 3784] no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Romans 13:8-9).

Being right before God by Christ’s law is fulfilling our duty of living righteously for that standing we’ve already been freely given by Christ’s merit before God. We’re to live righteously, not attempting to gain favor we don’t have, but fulfilling our duty for the favor we already have. An employee of a company, for example, is free and works to earn or merit income to pay his own debts. But a servant, however, is owned by his master and works out of duty for his debts that His master already paid.

Loving our enemies

The law of loving our neighbor includes our enemies because Christ commanded us to love all humans, not just our brethren, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men [anthropos 444] should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Mat 7:12). This final commandment given toward the end of His Sermon summarizes all that He just taught up to this point. The two commandments from the Law of Moses that He reiterated and reinforced, “Thou shalt not kill” (5:21), “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (5:27), certainly aren’t limited to how we treat God’s people only. In other words, it’s not that we shouldn’t kill and shouldn’t commit adultery among God’s people only but perfectly fine to commit these things with other people. And likewise, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour” (5:43), isn’t limited to how we treat our fellow brethren only. In fact, He even stated that explicitly, “And if ye salute your brethren only” (5:47).

The scribes and Pharisees hated their enemies and were teaching others the same, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Mat 5:43-44). Furthermore, when Christ quoted what they had been saying, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy,” the last part of the commandment “as thyself” is missing. The commandment given by Moses and restated by Christ, Paul, and James, always included it, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Lev 19:18; Mat 22:39; Mar 12:31; Rom 13:9; Gal 5:14; Jas 2:8). Apparently, the scribes and Pharisees didn’t want to look at themselves in the mirror when defining their neighbor, and therefore ignored the “as thyself” part. But Christ defined it as looking at ourselves first, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (7:12). This same teaching from Christ was also recorded by Luke:

And as ye would that men [anthropos 444] should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. (Luke 6:31-35)

Our enemies are also anthropos or human beings. If the tables were turned and we were someone’s enemy, despitefully mistreating them, yet found ourselves laying on the side of the road about to die unless someone showed us mercy, would we care that the person saving our life was our very enemy himself? We all have the same essential needs of air, water, food, clothing, and medical attention. To be unmerciful and deprive someone else of these necessities when it’s in our power, is to NOT love our neighbor and to forfeit any hope of salvation.

Paul also taught us to love our enemies, “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head” (Rom 12:20). He later quoted the second great commandment, “Owe [opheilo 3784] no man any thing, but to love one another … Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law … But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 13:8,9-10,14). Loving our neighbor as ourselves is figuratively “putting on” our Lord Jesus Christ by following His example and doing as He did, “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought [opheilo 3784] to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” (Jhn 13:14-15).

How do we show love to God?

Jesus said repeatedly, “If ye love me, keep my commandments … He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me … If a man love me, he will keep my words … He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings” (Jhn 14:15,21,23,24). Likewise, we show God our love by keeping His Son’s commandments, “That we should believe [trust] on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment” (1Jo 3:23), “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments” (1Jo 5:3). We can say we love God and love Jesus, but if we have Christ’s commandments and we’re not keeping them, we really don’t.

There’s a direct correlation between our love for God and our love for one another, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1Jo 4:20). We can’t see God or have any tangible contact with Him. How then can we show Him our love? By acts of love to those we can see and affect in tangible ways. We show love to Him by showing love to one another. Saying we love God, “If a man say, I love God,” doesn’t necessarily mean we really do. It’s not our words but our actions that speak, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed [action] and in truth” (1Jo 3:18).

James taught about the tongue, “Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude [image] of God” (Jas 3:9). We’re all made after God’s image and all equally important. When we see others, we’re seeing the image of God in them as in ourselves like looking in a mirror. Therefore, our love toward God’s image reflects our love toward God Himself. Although we can’t show love to God directly because we can’t see or feel Him, we can show love to Him by loving those made after His image. James’ point was that our mindset toward people betrays our walk with God. If with the tongue “bless we God” and with the same tongue “curse we men” made after His image, then the truth is that we’re really not walking with God. Cursing people—complaining and grumbling about them—is a reflection of our heart toward God Himself.

Love counts no evil

Charity [love] suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh [logizomai 3049] no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth. (1Corinthians 13:4-7)

Of course in this passage from First Corinthians, Paul expounds in detail several specific ways in which love behaves toward others. But we’ll highlight just the one aspect of love that it “thinketh [logizomai 3049] no evil.” The Greek verb logizomai is the same word Paul and James both used when teaching about the righteousness that God counted, imputed, or reckoned to Abraham: “Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was counted [logizomai 3049] unto him for righteousness. (Rom 4:3); “Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was accounted [logizomai 3049] to him for righteousness” (Gal 3:6); “Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was imputed [logizomai 3049] unto him for righteousness” (Jas 2:23). Although Abraham wasn’t righteous before God, but because he submitted to His requirement of trusting Him, God counted him righteous and treated him as such.

Paul also used this same word several times for how we count or reckon ourselves, each other, and other things: “Therefore we conclude [logizomai 3049]” (Rom 3:28); “Likewise reckon [logizomai 3049] ye also yourselves” (Rom 6:11); “For I reckon [logizomai 3049] that the sufferings of this present time” (Rom 8:18); “but to him that esteemeth [logizomai 3049] any thing to be unclean” (Rom 14:14); “Let a man so account [logizomai 3049] of us” (1Co 4:1); “Let such an one think [logizomai 3049] this” (2Co 10:11); “lest any man should think [logizomai 3049] of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me” (2Co 12:6).

Most notably, Paul used logizomai in this popular verse, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think [logizomai 3049] on these things” (Phl 4:8). Now, this statement is typically quoted to teach positive thinking in general—simply thinking about things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, etc. However, it’s actually about how we’re to count, reckon, or impute others. Love “thinketh [logizomai 3049] no evil,” because love “think [logizomai 3049] on these things.”

Earlier in his letter to the Philippians, he urged them, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus … took upon him the form of a servant” (Phl 2:3-5,7). We’re to have the same mindset of a servant that Christ had. Therefore, as a servant toward others, we’re to count, impute, or reckon toward them whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtue, and praise.

Since love “thinketh [logizomai 3049] no evil,” we’re not to consider the evil others have done but to remind ourselves of the good things about them and treat them accordingly. Of course this concerns personal wrongs and has nothing to do with those who have committed serious evil and criminal acts. Criminals convicted in a court of law are counted guilty and given just punishment. This is about the love we’re to show toward the unloving. Love doesn’t treat others reciprocally—treating only the nice nicely. It treats everyone the same regardless of how it’s treated in return. Love isn’t always easy—if it’s easy only, it isn’t love.

Conclusion

The Son of God commanded the second great commandment upon us, “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mat 22:39), “And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mar 12:31). Both Paul and James commanded this upon us as well (Rom 13:9; Gal 5:14; Jas 2:8). And all three of them taught that keeping this one commandment fulfills the requirements of all the commandments: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Mat 7:12); “if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Rom 13:9); “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Gal 5:14); “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well … For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (Jas 2:8,10).

James used an illustration of looking into a mirror for hearing and doing the one word or one commandment of loving our neighbor as ourselves, “For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass” (Jas 1:23), “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Jas 2:8). And Paul used the same illustration. After listing certain aspects of love, “Charity [love] suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up” (1Co 13:4), he then stated, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face” (1Co 13:12). We’re looking into a mirror when we’re hearing the commandment “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” then when face-to-face with our neighbor we’re to be doing—suffering long, being kind, envying not, etc.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated that we must live to the righteous standard He commanded or we won’t be entering the Kingdom, “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 5:20), “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Mat 7:21). He commanded the one word that fulfills all, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Mat 7:12). Keeping this one commandment is the narrow and restricted “way” that leads to eternal life, “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Mat 7:14). If we hear and do this commandment, we’ll be like a wise man who built his house on a rock that withstood the storm, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock.” But if we hear this commandment and don’t do it, we’ll be like a foolish man who built his house on sand that was destroyed by the storm, “And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand” (Mat 7:24,26).