The Test of a True Christian

A Pharisee once asked Jesus, “Which is the great commandment in the law?"

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind," Jesus responded. “This is the first and great commandment.”

Surprisingly, He also added, “And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:34–39 and Mark 12:28–31, NKJV).

These two powerful commands underscore the lifestyle of every believer in Christ. There is no commandment greater than these. However, the Pharisees had given more importance to the first commandment to love God. But Jesus said that the second, which says to love your neighbor as yourself, “is like it,” making it just as important. The reality is that these two commands are not only connected or related, but are inseparable.

The Pharisees’ minimizing of the second commandment revealed their failure in implementing the second commandment in their lives. Expressed in that command is the matter of practical religion; that is, allowing the love of God to manifest itself in how to relate to other people. Although they professed to believe in God, their love for others was obviously lacking.

Professing to love God is easy, but the test of such love is found in how the second commandment is lived out in our lives. Is it possible to love God and not love your fellow man? Scripture reveals in 1 John 4:20 that “If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”

“Loving our brother” or each other seems to be one of our greatest challenges, just as it was for the Pharisees. We often fail at making the transition from the theoretical to the practical, claiming to love God and have a relationship with Him but failing to demonstrate the transforming power of His love in our lives.

It is the love of God that compels us to love each other. Without His love working in us it is impossible to love each other. Love emanates from Him, for He is Love (1 John 4:8). What we do in God’s name without love as the motive is meaningless and empty. All worship to God and loving service to humanity has its origin in love for God.

In the second command, Jesus widens the view of neighbor to include all who are in need of help, not just fellow believers. Jesus was trying to convey to the Pharisees that not only Hebrews but also non-Hebrews were in need of the gospel and its benefits. For this reason, Jesus gave the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29–37).

Jesus wants His followers to understand that their lives are not about feeling superior because of nationality, ethnicity, occupation or level of education. For His followers their lives are about demonstrating His love to all humanity. “By this all will know you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, NKJV). This love is to be displayed in our homes, churches, communities and the mission fields.

Like the Pharisees, we seem to have difficulty implementing the second commandment. But God’s love transforms us into people who love our neighbors. In fact, we love our neighbor because we love God and His love is in our hearts. Otherwise we are saying one thing and living another, making us modern-day hypocrites and Pharisees.

The Hebrews of Jesus’ day perceived themselves superior to people of surrounding nations. After all, they possessed the oracles of God. Sadly, this same spirit exists in the church today, despite the fact that the concept of superiority is completely contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It distorts the word of God that man was made in His image (Genesis 1:26–27) and that there are no advantages to salvation because of heritage, gender, or degrees of freedom (Galatians 3:27–28). To allow this spirit to prevail in our lives violates the dignity of others as a creation of God.

As believers we have a moral obligation to work toward the elimination of hatred, prejudice, racism and bigotry in our own lives and in the world. As people of faith we must look at the world and view all people through the eyes of God.

Maybe now is a good time to face head-on this tremendous challenge of making our profession real by allowing our love for God to express itself in our love for one another. Let’s begin anew by living under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and loving others as Jesus did. Love will indeed underscore our lives as Christians.

February 01, 2007 / Perspective