The Commandment of Love

The Lord has not abrogated the chief commandments of the law of Moses, but has given a more perfect and binding law. For Christ says: “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Matt. 5:17). But particularly is this to be observed in reference to the commandment of love, which is the chief commandment, the whole substance of the law of Moses; namely : “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deut. 6:5). Further, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Lev. 19:18). “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22: 40). This means that we should well stand the test of these commandments, and walk in perfect love, and that in the exercise of such love all that is contained in the law and the prophets is fulfilled, as Paul testifies: “The end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned” (I Tim. 1:5).

Under the law of Moses, the love of their neighbour was not understood to extend farther than to their brethren, the Israelites, who alone were considered as neighbours. Under the Gospel, however, “brotherly kindness and charity” (II Pet. 1:7) are required. For Christ says: “If ye love them which love you, what reward1 have ye? do not even the publicans the same?” (Matt. 5:46). And when a certain lawyer asked Christ, who, according to the law, was his neighbour, He told him the story of the Samaritan (Luke 10:29), thereby declaring to him that he was to exercise love towards all those who stood in need of his help. Thus He teaches that not only he who was his brother according to the covenant of circumcision, was his neighbour, but that we should show our labors of love, without distinction, to all those to whom we can be of service. At the same time He also enjoined brotherly love as strictly as it was ever commanded in the law, and said to His disciples: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another. … By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34,36). “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (I John 4:8). Therefore Peter also so strictly and earnestly enjoins love, when he says: “Above all things have fervent charity among yourselves : for charity shall cover the multitude of sins” (I Pet. 4:8). We are to exercise not only “brotherly kindness,” but also “charity” or, love towards all mankind (II Pet. 1:7), loving also our enemies. Matt. 5 :44.

It pleased God at that time to exterminate the seven different proscribed nations, who were His enemies, through the Jews, with whom the latter were not permitted to enter into any treaty of peace, nor their children into marriage relations. Ex. 34:12,16. Otherwise they had to show love towards all strangers in their country. Ex. 23 :9. But now that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (II Cor. 5:19), our benevolence must be shown to all men, without distinction. II Pet. 1:7. This is expressly taught by Christ: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. … 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. . . . 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?” (Matt. 5:38-47). In a similar manner the Apostle Paul exhorts believers when he says: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 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 :19, 20). Thus must orthodox Christians through welldoing silence the ignorance of unwise and foolish men.

Certainly has that love which extends to all mankind also certain signs. For wherever the true love of God is founded in the hearts of men, men are also kindled in love towards their fellow creatures. “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now” (I John 2:9). “Charity 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 no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth” (I Cor. 13:4-6). “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13 :10). Thus a true Christian is, through love, free from all desire of revenge.

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