A certain Pharisee attempted to test Jesus by asking Him what is the greatest commandment in the Law and the Lord replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt 22:37-40 NIV)
Paul, in corroborating Jesus’ words, wrote in the Epistle to Romans:
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Rom 13:8-10 NIV)
* after reading this, I wonder if it was not Paul who posed the question to Jesus in Matt 22. Hmm…*
In 1 Corinthians, he wrote:
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor 13:1-3 NIV)
Both Jesus and Paul were unequivocal about this: Love is the principal thing for Christians.
All our good behaviors, all our spiritual abilities, all our wisdom, all our awe-inspiring faith, all our charitable deeds or self-sacrifice means nothing to God… if they are without love.
Jesus said of the Pharisees (and their ilk):
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. ” (Matt 23:23-24 NIV)
Even though they went around teaching the things of God, they had no love for the people in their hearts. The Law was just a tool they used to feed their self-importance and justify their self-righteousness.
Perhaps we need to examine ourselves: Do we always act or speak out of love?