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In the Gates

Like unto the First

Two commandments comprise the top priorities of the soul.

The Rule of Law: First Things (29)

Click here to watch a brief video introducing this section’s study on the Law and the conscience. This week’s video is the same as for lesson 2. To here

‘You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.’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. We must make sure that we understand with our mind what this commandment requires, and the Law can certainly help us here. And as we set the Law in our hearts, seeing its beauty and wisdom, so that we delight in and love it, we will embrace what we are coming to understand about this second great commandment and priority, so that it will become settled in our consciences as a default guide to action.

The second commandment 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, leading to actions, must be brought under the government of these two great rules.

Our text indicates that neighbor-love can be derailed by some perceived slight or transgression, committed against us by our neighbor. How easy it is for us to become offended, or simply to allow resentment, indifference, jealousy, covetousness, or some other lack of love to cause us to neglect our neighbor’s wellbeing. The goal is to have love for our neighbor to be what we would desire for ourselves – what we desire, not what we are receiving at any moment – and to sink this like a pylon as a fixed value in our consciences. Then we will need to cherish, nurture, and guard love of neighbor against anything which might direct us otherwise, and this we do through further meditation in the Law and prayer, waiting on the Lord to search our souls and set our paths straight again (Ps. 139.23, 24; Ps. 119.59, 60).

In other words, don’t count to 10 as a remedy against building anger or resentment; take it to the Lord in prayer.

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 – mind, heart, and conscience – into proper shape before the Lord, so that we might live in righteousness, peace, and joy 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. We can’t do everything, of course; but where we can lend a hand, offer a word of encouragement, or otherwise help our neighbor with some burden, we should. As the body is strengthened and shaped for such acts of love, and as its skills are improved, through particular kinds of exercise, so the soul, and especially the conscience, can be disciplined to allow neighbor-love its proper place. But we must 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.

Next steps – Conversation: Today, make a point to speak to as many people as possible in your Personal Mission Field. Prepare with some words of edification or encouragement, which the Lord can use as means of grace in their lives. The more you take up this practice, the more such acts of thoughtfulness and kindness will settle into your soul.

T. M. Moore

The Law of God is the soil which, fertilized by the rest of God’s Word and watered by His Spirit, brings forth the fruit of the Christian life. If you’d like to understand this process better, and how to make best use of the Law in your walk with and work for the Lord, order the book, The Ground for Christian Ethics, from our online store.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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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