If you did a survey among Americans who claim to be Christians, I’m confident more of them could identify the Second Amendment than could identify Jesus’ Second Commandment.
What, you didn’t realize Jesus had a list of commandments?
Jesus was quite persistent in resisting those who would make Him a legalist. They brought a woman to Him, directly from an adulterous bed, hoping to make Him choose legalism and obey the law. When asked why He allowed His disciples to harvest grain on the Sabbath, He moved beyond the reading of the law to the meaning of the law. After being called out for not washing His hands before a meal according to the rule of law, Jesus reminded His host that cleanliness comes from the heart, not from the wash basin.
Finally, Jesus was cornered by a lawyer. If you want to find a true legalist look for the nearest lawyer—that is what they do. The lawyer asked Jesus to identify the greatest law of Moses. He wanted to know what Jesus thought was the most important law.
Since this man was an expert on the law, he already had an opinion on this issue. He was either expecting Jesus to confirm his own opinion, or to offer an opposing position that they could argue.
Jesus provided an answer that would be quite agreeable to the lawyer—love God with all your being. But He didn’t stop there, saying there is a second commandment of equal value. The second commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).
I think it means when my neighbor is hungry I should be just as diligent in feeding him as I am in feeding myself when I’m hungry.
I think it means when my neighbor is cold I should make every effort to keep him as warm as I do myself on a winter night.
I think it means when my neighbor is hurting because of a loss (a death, injury, or relationship) I should sit down and grieve with him.
I think it means when my neighbor has screwed up something I should be helping to make things right just like I want others to help me make things right.
I think it means when my neighbor is mean and angry I should forgive him just like I want to be forgiven.
I think it means when my neighbor has stupid opinions I should be gentle and understanding like I need others to treat me when I have stupid opinions.
I think it means I want the best for my neighbor just like I want the best for myself.
Jesus’ second commandment is a hard one, but it actually makes His first commandment visible. In other words, how does anyone know if I actually love God? I can tell you that I do, but I might be lying, perhaps even lying to myself. But in tying these two commandments together, Jesus gave us a way to show that we truly love God by revealing how much we love our neighbor.
Do you understand what that means? It means I cannot claim to love God unless I love my neighbor. If I don’t care about my neighbor’s hunger, or his lack of clothing, or his hurting, or his need for help and forgiveness then I don’t really love God.
Jesus’ Second Commandment might be one of the most important things He said.
It is sad that so many will wrap themselves in the protection of the Second Amendment yet fail to comprehend the Second Commandment. If you read them carefully they are almost opposite in meaning.
The Second Amendment is designed to allow me to protect myself, while the Second Commandment is designed to allow me to give myself to others.
The Second Amendment gives me license to kill someone who wants to steal my stuff, and the Second Commandment gives me license to give my stuff to anyone who needs it.
The Second Amendment focuses on my need to take care of myself (and my family), but the Second Commandment focuses my attention on the needs of others.
It causes me to wonder what would happen if Christians (just those who actually follow Jesus) were as adamant about demanding their Second Commandment rights as they are about the Second Amendment rights. Perhaps we would stop hating and killing one another and start loving and taking care of one another. Or more importantly, at least for me anyway, what would it mean if I took Jesus’ Second Commandment more seriously? How would that change my life? Perhaps it’s time to find out.