On one occasion Jesus was asked to give the greatest commandment of the law. He answered,
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and Prophets.”
This rule of love for God and for our fellow man is the very essence of Christianity. James expressed it in these words:
“If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well.”
Jesus defined this concept early in His ministry by giving what is commonly called the Golden Rule:
“Therefore however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
The First Dimension
The only basis for observing the “Royal Law” is found in the first passage stated, “You shall love the LORD your God…” It is out of love for God that love for each other is born (1 John 4.21).
The Bible reveals God as the great lover of humanity. That which we cannot do for ourselves, He does. While we were still sinners, He sent His Son to redeem us (Romans 5.8). The entire Christian faith is built upon God’s great love for mankind.
The sacrificial death of Jesus is the manifestation of that love; the Gospel proclaims it; and the obedience of the penitent believer secures it. Thus we are brought into a personal sharing of love with God – He for us because He inherently loves us (1 John 4.10), and we for Him because of what He has done for us (John 3.16). This is love in its first dimension.
The Second Dimension
God loves people, other people, not just me. In truth, He loves all people, and so too must we.
As already stated in the “Royal Law,” our love for God is bound up in our love for each other. The only way to accomplish that is by the purposeful and intention placing of each other’s best interest over and above that of our own, whether he be friend or foe – especially foe!
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor…fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality…bless those who persecute you…rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep…never pay back evil for evil to anyone…be a peace with all men…never take your own revenge…do not be overcome by evil, overcome evil with good” (Romans 12.9-21).
This is love in the second dimension.