When Jesus answered and pointed out the two greatest commandments, He said in Matthew 22:37-40, “You shall love the LORD Your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Verse 37 comes from a passage in the Old Testament called the Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5. The second greatest commandment, verse 38, also comes from the Law found in Leviticus 19:18; “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.” This concept of love for others had been misrepresented by the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. Their hard hearts taught that to love your neighbor meant to hate your enemy. However, like with most all else in the Law, Jesus took what was there and upped the ante on its requirement, revealing what God intended for it to mean. When it came to loving God, not only was He to be first, but also nothing, no one, and not even our own desires were to come before Him.
Jesus said, “And the second is like it.” This means we are to love others BEFORE we love ourselves. Jesus also addressed their misrepresentation as He taught them in Matthew 5:43-44, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” Take note of two things here: (1) He did not say “It is written” but “you have heard that it was said.” This shows us that God intended for us to love all and never hate when He gave the Law to Moses. (2) His focus was to give an example of how to love as He loves (“For God so loved the world...” John 3:16). We are to love everyone—our neighbors and our enemies—without bias. The only way to even begin to love that like that is to be a growing Christian. Only when the One who is love lives and thrives within us can we have what is needed to love as He desires us to.
Lastly, in Jesus’ closing thoughts from Matthew 22:37-40, He said, “On these two commandments hang all the Law and Prophets.” This points to the fact that if we will work diligently at obeying these two commands, all the other things that the Law and Prophets taught will be much easier to follow. So, love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and love others before yourself and watch your relationship with, and your obedience to, Jesus flourish!