The Christian Perspective

The Bible teaches in Matthew 22:36-40 that all of God's laws for humanity depend upon obedience to the following two commands:

1. Love God. ("Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.")

2. Love your neighbor. ("Love your neighbor as yourself.")

The most important thing to note here is that love for God must always come before and have total priority over love for other people -- otherwise we fall into idolatry.

When we read these words, we think immediately that we understand them. After all, who doesn't understand "love your neighbor"? How difficult is that to understand, really?

Actually, it is rare that any two people will agree on exactly what "love" means in this context. We tend to think we understand it and that every other human being will understand it the same way we do because of how obvious it is, but this is simply the "psychologist's fallacy" -- presupposing that others think the same way we do.

For example, in many people's minds, loving one's neighbor means, in part, never arguing with them: never discussing controversial topics such as scripture, salvation, and religion. Love is often equated with tolerance or lack of disputes. After all, it is argued, Christ is the Prince of Peace! (Isaiah 9:6)

Is this the "love" that Christ wants us to have for our neighbor?

If it were, the Bible would be not only contradictory, but utterly meaningless!

Since Christ is the Prince of Peace, the only way we can be peacemakers is to introduce people to Him! This means necessarily discussing the scriptures, salvation and religion. Christians are commanded by Christ to make disciples of all nations and to teach them to obey all that He has commanded us (Matthew 28). The church is also commanded to preach the gospel to all creatures (Mark 16). Those who do so are highly commended (Romans 10:15).

The ultimate picture of love for neighbor is certainly not the avoidance of conflict, but rather the presentation of Christ.

And love for God -- what of that?

Christ, who is God the Son, teaches that if we love Him, we will obey His commands (John 14). Thus, obedience to Christ's commands is an outpouring of our love for Him -- love that we only have because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

The best way to properly understand how to love God is to read His word, the Bible, recognizing that God Himself is the very picture of love (1 John 4:16).

In totally giving Himself up for us, He provides a model for how we should behave towards Him (John 3:16-17; Romans 5:8; John 15:13; Philippians 2:8; Matthew 16:24).

Therefore, our behavior as Christians is to be first and foremost obedient to Christ out of love for Him, and in that obedience, to bring Christ to our neighbors out of love for them.