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In the Gates

Like unto the First

The Rule of Law: Government of the Conscience (2)

The second value is like unto the first.


You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Leviticus 19.17, 18

Jesus taught that the second great commandment was like unto the first (Matt. 22.34-40). Loving our neighbors as we love ourselves is thus the second commanding priority of the soul. It is like the first in that, between them, these two commandments give shape and direction to every aspect of our lives. All the other priorities and values of the conscience, which inform and direct our hearts and minds, must be brought under the government of these two great rules.

How easy it is for us to become offended by our neighbor, or simply to allow indifference and a lack of love to cause us to neglect our neighbor’s wellbeing – or worse. As with fearing and loving God, we must cherish, nurture, and guard love of neighbor against anything which might direct us otherwise. We will be more likely to love our neighbors when we actually know them; hence, it is important that we take whatever initiatives this may require.

Love for neighbor will grow stronger in our consciences to the extent that we also make it a point to pray for our neighbors on a regular basis. Prayer is an effective workshop for hammering our souls into proper shape before the Lord, so that we might live unto Him in the normal course of our daily lives.

Love for neighbors can also be strengthened by paying attention to them and their needs – becoming good listeners, ready conversationalists, generous in the use of our time and resources to help where we can. As the body is strengthened, and its skills improved, through particular kinds of exercise, so the soul, and especially the conscience, can be disciplined to allow neighbor-love its proper place if we will make the effort to train it in these ways.

Fear and love for God require that we obey Him; and all the Law and the prophets are summarized in this first great commandment and in the second, which like the first, provides overarching shape and direction for our consciences and our souls.

For a practical guide to the role of God’s Law in the life of faith, get The Ground for Christian Ethics by going to and click on our Book Store.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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