Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God with our hearts, souls, and minds (Matthew 22:37-38). He followed that by saying that there is a second commandment that is just as important, that we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39). These two commandments sum up God’s Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:40). If we truly love God, we will worship Him only and not put any idols before Him. We will not take His name in vain, and we will honor the Sabbath, keeping it holy (Exodus 20:1-11). And when we love our neighbor, we will not steal, murder, commit adultery, covet, or bear false witness against anyone (Exodus 20:12-17).
It may be easy to say that you love God and have followed that first great commandment. But, what about the second? Now, you may say, “I have loved my neighbor as I love myself. I haven’t stolen from anyone, I haven’t committed murder or adultery, I don’t covet what belongs to others, and I have never borne false witness against anyone. So, I have obeyed the second commandment, as well!” But is that all there is to obeying the second great commandment? A look at Scripture will tell you that there is more to it.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave us the Golden Rule. He said that we should do to others whatever we would have them do to us. He said that this is the essence of what is taught in the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12). So, it also can be said that if we do anything to others that we would not want them to do to us, then we are violating God’s Law, violating the second great commandment. In the letter of James, we can see three specific behaviors that, although they are not murder, adultery, theft, or covetousness, would still be in violation of God’s law: showing partiality, speaking against a brother or sister, and judging others.
James 2:8 says that if we really fulfill the Law of God’s kingdom by loving our neighbor as ourselves, then we are doing well. But the letter goes on to say that, if we show partiality, we commit a sin and are convicted by the Law (James 3:9). If we favor one person over another, we are not truly loving our neighbor. In chapter 4 of the letter of James, we are told that we must not speak evil against another and we must not judge another. To do so is to speak evil against God’s law and to judge God’s law (James 4:11). If we do so, if we speak evil against someone or judge someone, we are not truly showing love to that person and so we violate God’s Law. After all, who are we to judge our neighbor? We must always remember that there is only one lawgiver and there is only one judge, God Himself.