All of us are familiar with the Ten Commandments. We have heard about them all of our lives. Many of us could recite most of them from memory. They are the moral and ethical foundation upon which our society is based. Without them, it would be impossible for people to live together in peace and harmony. But there is another set of laws that are even more basic than the Ten Commandments. We could call these the “Twin Commandments”. They, too, are found in the gospels.
The first is a quotation from the book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament: “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind.” The second is a quotation from the book of Leviticus, also in the Old Testament: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus took these two commands from God, found in two separate books of the Bible, and placed them side by side. In His mind, they were a matched set. Each is a mirror image of the other.
But we need to stop and to think how can the two be alike? One pertains to God, whom we have never seen or heard. The other pertains to real, flesh and blood people. Surely, it isn’t the same to love one as it is to love the other. Yet that is what Jesus said: “Love God”. This is the first commandment. The second is like it: “Love your neighbor”.
So how are the two alike? For one thing, they are both commandments. They carry the force of an obligation. To follow them, to practice them is the fulfillment of a duty that rests upon all of us.
Another way in which the two are alike is that they both require the same kind of love. This kind of love that Jesus was talking about has little to do with feelings. It goes far beyond that. A feeling cannot be mandated. We have not been commanded to “like” God or to “like” all people. And we should be grateful for that. There are days when loving God may seem fairly easy. The sun is shining. The birds are singing. But there are other days when storm clouds gather, sickness comes, and “sorrows” are all around. On days like that, God can seem very vague and far away. In times like those, it would be virtually impossible to love in the sense of “liking” Him. The same holds true for people. There are some that we find very easy to love. Then there are other people whom we do not like at all. They are rude and abrasive. He did, however, command us to love those whom we do not like. And we are to love God in the same way – even on those days when we find it impossible to like Him.
What strange kind of love is this? It is an act of the will. It is a conscious volitional choice. It is unconditional. Regardless of how it feels, it works for the highest good. This is how God loves us. And that is how we are commanded to love Him and all other people.
There is a saying that we should love the sinner but hate the sin. We already know one person for whom we do that very thing. That person is ourselves. There are times when we don’t like ourselves, when we strongly disapprove of the things that we have said or felt or done. But even in those times, we still want the best for ourselves. What we give to ourselves we can give to others.
So commit each day of your life to “loving God with your whole heart”, and to “loving your neighbor as yourself.” But choose to do so one day at a time. You then will see these “Twin Commandments” work miracles in your life. Try it and you, too, will see that it really works!