This passage is one of Jesus’ teachings that appears in all three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark & Luke). Though in different contexts, Jesus draws out the key message from the Hebrew laws (Deuteronomy 6:5 & Leviticus 19:18) and summarizes everything down to these two commandments: love God and love your neighbor.
There are any number of reasons that Christ might have done this. But here is a rather obvious one: we tend to get so caught up with the rules and the rights and the regulations that we miss the point.
At the end of the day, all that matters to God, ultimately, is that we are loving God by loving our neighbors.
All of our neighbors – every race, creed, class, sexuality, gender, even political party.
It is not that those differences do not matter to God. Quite the contrary. God has often shown us that our diversity is something to celebrate and that those labels that are used to denigrate, decimate, and subjugate others are unacceptable. God always sides with the “little guy” or girl, so to speak.
But if you are unsure where to begin with following Jesus, here is where you start: love others. All of them. Period.
Don’t let them trample you. Do call out hateful behavior and language. Don’t trample anyone yourself, even for vengeance’s sake. And do everything you can to empower those who have rarely had a validated voice.
God’s love is everything.
Let it flow out of you like a river cascading God’s purposes for life, justice, and peace.
Let it be the lens through which all other parts of our lives, including the scriptures, are examined.
And as Mr. Rogers said, Love is not a fancy or a feeling. “It is an active noun like struggle.”
It is not easy, but it is quite simple. Just do it.
So, whatever you are doing, or thinking, or saying, ask yourself this question: does this decision show love to my neighbor(s)?
Because if we are not loving our neighbors, Jesus has told us, we aren’t really loving God, either.