Loneliness! Stark, relentless, loneliness! Empty, pointless, purposeless lives filled with loneliness! Wandering the crowded halls of society, Americans are the loneliest people in the world! Individuality has not been isolated to the heathen world and denominationalism, but has permeated throughout all of Christianity. Not only do Americans not know their neighbors on either side of one’s home, but many do not know the person sitting on the pew nearby on Sunday morning. The Christian slogan for the end of the 20th Century was, “Me and Jesus got our own thing going.” We claim to know God and to love Him, yet something is still wrong…
We are part of a Christian world that has become very comfortable with the First Commandment (at least as far as we understand it) that commands us to love God with all of our heart, all of our soul, and all of our mind (Matthew 22:37). We worship God with exuberance: running, leaping, and shouting for joy at the knowledge of our God. We are blessed beyond measure with the revelation of truth. However, many still go home to a long, lonely week, waiting for another weekend service to give it all they’ve got for another couple hours. Wondering about the emptiness of the week and the loneliness of the nights…
It is high time for the body of Christ to examine the world around us that is void of the Second Commandment of Christ, “Love your neighbor as your self (Matthew 22:39),” and the effect, both corporately and individually, this has had upon the church. For assuredly, this problem is not isolated in the world; but within the ranks of Christianity, as well, we find a church bifurcated and lonely. The need for obedience to the Second Commandment is urgently felt in our day and will be greatly needed throughout the millennium ahead. What is needed in the Christian world today is a church that incorporates both the First Commandment and the Second Commandment into their church, their lives, and into their community.
One cannot fully comprehend the width and depth of the Second Commandment unless he understands the relationship between the first and the second. The First Commandment requires that we, “…love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind (Matthew 22:37).” However, it would seem that this passage does not give specific instructions on how to fulfill the First Commandment. This seems to allow individual interpretation of the First Commandment and, consequently, one hears a wide variety of answers that range from total obedience to God to a total absorption into the things of God.
The method with which we can fulfill the First Commandment is not as subjective or as hard to decipher as some may think. Quite the contrary, the way to fulfill the First Commandment, is to obey the Second Commandment, which is to “…love thy neighbor as thyself (Matthew 22:40).” Jesus said it this way, when explaining why the faithful would go to Heaven when they stood before the judgment throne of God, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me (Matthew 25:34-36).” The righteous were astonished and replied with the question; When did we do any of these things (Matthew 25:37-39)? Jesus’ reply mirrors the Second Commandment when He tells the righteous, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matthew 25:40).” If one desires to love God with all of his heart, soul, and mind, the way to do this is by reading the First Commandment in context with the Second Commandment. Jesus knew how subject the First Commandment was for people limited by their humanity and provided a Second Commandment that is like unto the first (Matthew 22:39).
This Second Commandment did not dwell in subjectivity, but rather was specific with two very important standards. The first standard was to love one’s neighbor; the second standard was to love one’s neighbor in the same manner in which one loves himself. For only when one has loved his neighbor (who could be the least of these) as himself has he loved the Lord with all his heart, soul, and mind. Conversely, it is true, “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me (Matthew 25:45).” The punishment for not fulfilling the Second Commandment and the reward for loving one’s neighbor is equally as plain, “…these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal
It is equally important that one understands that the Second Commandment is not possible unless one truly does love the Lord with all his heart, soul, and mind. Empty and hollow neighborliness only propagates hard feelings and a sense of obligation among neighbors. However, when the church is motivated to love her neighbors because of her consuming love of the Savior, community and fellowship are created. Neighbor-love is driven by the injunction of the First and the Second Commandments. It is in such an atmosphere of unity between both commandments that God can work and change lives forever.
“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 (Matthew 5:44).” Only when Christians are consumed with the First Commandment can they fulfill this extension of the Second Commandment. The Scriptures further warn that if Christians only love those who love them back, they are no different than non-Christians (Matthew 5:46-47). The core of Christian lifestyles should be Christian service to both fellow believers and unbelievers, even when they are hostile and mistreat others. The children of the Father, who are perfect as He is perfect, love those that are least in this world (Matthew 5:45, 48). Jesus was thronged and followed by the least of His world until many criticized even those He ate with (Matthew 9:10-11). One radical difference between Jesus and other Judaism movements was His concern for the poor and marginalized. It does not sound like much to start a church with, yet from this ragtag bunch of sinners (counted the least of their day) Christ built the biggest and most powerful church in the world. Two thousand years later, Christ is still asking the Church to gather to Him, through the Second Commandment, the least, on whom He promised to pour out His Spirit (Acts 2:17). The two commandments must become one great commandment! “Too often Christians have failed to combine servanthood with truth.” Any effort to separate these two commandments is, in essence, “doing violence to what God meant to be joined.”
Let there be no mistake, the Second Commandment was not, and is not today, a suggestion. Repeatedly, throughout both the New and the Old Testaments, loving one’s neighbor is referred to as a commandment. Jesus spoke to the lawyer, who stated that both the First and the Second Commandments were the requirement to obtain the Kingdom of God, and said, “Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live (Luke 10:28).” There is an urgent call to obedience that runs throughout the New Testament for the church to love her neighbors like Christ did – “daily, persistently, practically. Jesus modeled servanthood, self-sacrifice, and special concern for the poor and neglected.” His command to us was, “Go, and do thou likewise (Luke 10:40).”
Frazee, Randy. The Connecting Church. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2001.
Gelder, Craig Ban. The Essence of the Church. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House Company, 2000.
Homrighausen, Elmer G. “Who is My Neighbor?” Interpretations, 2001.
Lustiger, Jean-Marie Cardinal. “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” First Things, 1997.
Post, Stephen. “The Purpose of Neighbor-Love.” Journal of Religious Ethics 18, 2001.
Sider, Ronald J. Living Like Jesus. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House Company, 1996.
Spence, H. D. M., ed. The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 15. Grand Rapids, Michigan: WM. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1950.
 Randy Frazee, The Connecting Church, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2001), 24.
 Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” First Things (1997): 38-45.
 Craig Ban Gelder, The Essence of the Church, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House Company, 2000), 27-37.
 H.D. M. Spence, ed., The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 15, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: WM. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1950), 366.
 Stephen Post, “The Purpose of Neighbor-Love,” Journal of Religious Ethics 18 (2001): 182.
 Craig Ban Gelder, The Essence of the Church, 153.
 Ronald J. Sider, Living Like Jesus, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House Company, 1996), 35.
 Ibid, 169.
 Elmer G Homrighausen, “Who is My Neighbor” Interpretations (2001): 401.
 Ronald J. Sider, Living Like Jesus, 32-34.