Mat 22:37 And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Mat 22:38 This is the great and first commandment. Mat 22:39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Mat 22:40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."
Let me relate a few thoughts on the second great commandment; loving others as we love ourselves. Normally we understand that the love for self is not sinful in itself but assumed for everyone. And so we are being told that we should treat others as we want to be treated as the Golden Rule states. This is certainly true but let’s dig a little deeper.
How is the second like the first; what are the connections? Well, we are to love in both cases and we are to love something other than ourselves for sure. I also think there is a connection when it comes to how we are to love our neighbor. In other words I don’t think it is merely that we are to love God first and foremost and also love those around us. I think there is something here that speaks especially to the Christian heart.
Jesus first says that the only love God accepts is a real, heart-felt love that puts supreme value on him above all else; that consumes our entire being. This should be no surprise to us since this is what God has demanded from the beginning and why he created us to begin with. Anything less than finding fulfillment in him is the essence of sin. So when he tells us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, we have to define that love by the way we are to love God.
So the idea is certainly not that since I love to have my ego stroked, I will stroke yours or even merely since I love to eat and be clothed I will do so for you. No doubt that is involved but it must go beyond only this. At the heart of true love is this: since my greatest desire is to know and experience God and this is how I find fulfillment and life then I will love you in the same way I love this for myself. This means that for me to express true love to someone I must do what I can to bring them to Christ or build them up in their faith so that they might experience what I see as the greatest joy.
If I reduce love to others as merely making sure their physical needs are met, I am robbing them of what I claim to be the most important thing there is; experiencing God. Thus while godly love should move us to compassion for the physical needs of mankind, we must be careful of thinking that the goal of the church is mainly charity work. Many have fallen into the trap of thinking that the great goal of religion and the local church is to improve the physical condition of man and society. But the great commission is to preach the gospel because without salvation charity work just makes people more comfortable before the Judgment.
If we truly love God our greatest compassion will be to see sinners saved and Christians growing in the faith and social work will be to that end and will not become an end in itself.