“‘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 22:36-40)
I grew up near Paris, France, as an atheist. I became a scientist, doing research in artificial intelligence in the 1990s. I had studied science for many years, but the Lord began to touch my heart and guide me to His love; now I wanted to study the Christian faith. For a long time, it was difficult for me to connect my previous scientific studies with my study of the Christian faith, but I began to bridge the gap when I realized that the scientific method has two facets: experiments and principles.
Experiments help you discern principles, some of which are specific to limited situations and others that are universal, like the gravitation principle. These principles then, in turn, help you to design more successful experiments. We will never reach a point where the principles will discard the need for experimentation. I still remember the speech I heard upon finishing my master’s in science: most of what we had learned would be updated in the coming years, and we would need to continue to study and experiment in order to keep learning.
In the Christian faith, we also have principles: some limited to situations and others universal, like loving God with all our heart, soul, and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. If this principle is of central importance for Christianity, it must then be implemented in practical daily experiences. In these experiences, this principle is a guideline, but we need to discern how to implement it in our daily lives.
Law is fulfilled in one word: love (Rom. 13:10).
To love God and neighbor is a principle that we must put into action.
Love is a commandment to us and therefore is something that must be done. Often, we hear that the “golden rule” is to love your neighbor as yourself. Many religions defend this principle and secular philosophy also promotes this notion to a point. The uniqueness of Christianity is that it tells believers that they must first love God and then love neighbor.
We cannot love our neighbor properly if we do not love God first. Just as Scripture teaches us how to love God, it also teaches us how to be in community with humanity. Neighbors are those with whom we interact or cross paths daily, those God has put in our life for a reason, and those that hurt and are lonely. The commandment to love those near to us after we love God is to show God to those people. When we love our neighbor without loving God, our love is egocentric and often seeks the approval of man or the promotion of the self. When we love our neighbor after we love God (or because we love God), we are able to show them the love of Christ.
This Christ-centeredness is essential in how we love others.
What Jesus taught in Matthew 22:36-40 is the foundation for the community of God. Through our intimacy with God, we are able to be relate with our neighbor. This closeness can be rightly established when God is our first love. Through consistent inner dialogue with God, we must consciously learn to love our neighbor.
In your devotional times and throughout the day, ask Jesus: “How would you like for me to show love today? Who should I show love to, and how?” Be open to hearing from the Lord. If what you hear makes sense and fits with biblical principles, then experiment. Live in the obedience of faith as you love God and love your neighbor (Rom. 1:5; 16:26)!
Stéphane Tibi is a missionary serving as Regional Education Coordinator in Eurasia.
Written for Coffee Break.