But here the Lord asks only two things of us: love for His Majesty and love for our neighbor. It is for these two virtues that we must strive, and if we attain them perfectly we are doing His will and so shall be united with Him.
The surest sign that we are keeping these two commandments is, I think, that we should really be loving our neighbor; for we cannot be sure if we are loving God . . . but we can know quite well if we are loving our neighbor. (Teresa of Avila: Fifth Mansions: Chapter Three)
A few observations about loving God and loving our neighbor:
- We should concentrate on loving our neighbor. This is the simplest way to know if we love God. Take a look at I John 1.6-7: “If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another . . .” If we have a healthy relationship with God, our human relationships will thrive. If we’re constantly fighting, contemptuous of others, or filled with resentment, we walk in darkness. At that point, praying, reading our bible, or accelerating spiritual activity will not help. Instead, we need to correct our attitude toward others.
- In loving our neighbor, we still have relational priorities. Neglecting or wounding our family to “save the world” violates the “love your neighbor” command in the most egregious way.
- All other commandments are subordinate to loving God and loving our neighbor. If, in an attempt to fulfill a different commandment, we despise our neighbor, we’ve misunderstood the intent of the command we’re trying to fulfill.
- The greater we advance in love of neighbor, the greater we advance in our love for God. Therefore, loving our neighbor is the pinnacle of spiritual formation.
- Loving our neighbor is the centerpiece of church life. Dehumanizing others in the faith community to do “great things for God” is a sin and counterproductive to the goals of the Kingdom.
- The standard we must embrace is “perfect” love of our neighbor. Click here to see my post on the “Pursuit of Perfection”.
Jesus said, ” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (The Book of Matthew)