The Two Main Commandments

On the Gospel about the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25–37

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In the Gospel reading for today (Lk. 10:25–37), the Savior our God solves a very important question for us: What must we do in order to inherit eternal life? This question is posed to the Lord by a Jewish lawyer, who said, What shall I do to inherit eternal life? The Lord pointed out to him the law given to the Jews by God through Moses: What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live (that is, eternally). But he, willing to justify himself (that is, just like all the other Pharisees he considered himself to be a righteous fulfiller of the law as he himself understood it—one-sidedly and incorrectly), said unto Jesus And who is my neighbour? assuming that he should only consider a Jew his neighbor, and not just any person.

Through the parable about the man who had fallen victim to thieves and the good Samaritan who took the most heartfelt and active care of him, the Lord showed that any person no matter who, even our enemy, is our neighbor, especially when he needs help. So, this means that in order to receive eternal life we need to diligently fulfill the two main commandments—to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbor as ourself. But because in these two commandments consist the whole Law, then they must be explained so that we would know well in what our love of God and neighbor consists. Thus, with God’s help we shall begin an explanation. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; that is: With your whole being, with all your strength commit yourself to God, dedicate your whole self to Him without holding anything back, not dividing yourself between God and the world; do not live partly for God and His Law and partly for the world, for the much-passionate flesh, for sin and the devil. But dedicate your whole self to God—be all godly, all holy, throughout your whole life. But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy (1 Pet. 1:15), says the holy apostle Peter.

We shall explain this commandment by examples. Let us suppose that you pray to God. If you love God with all your heart then you will pray to Him always, with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind. You will not be lazy, neglectful, or cold towards prayer; during prayer you will not give any place in your heart to daily cares and worries—you’ll set aside all earthly cares, place all your sorrows on the Lord, for He takes care of you as the apostle says. Try to penetrate the prayer and the services completely with your understanding, in all their depth. If you love God with all your soul you will repent sincerely to God of all your sins, you will bring forth deep repentance to Him every day, for you sin very much every day. You will repent, that is, judge yourself for your sins with all your heart, all your strength, and all your mind; you will rebuke yourself with relentless strictness, in all sincerity. You will bring your complete confession to God, a sacrifice of a whole burnt offering of sins, so that not one sin would remain unrepented, unwept-for.

In this manner, loving God with all your heart means to love His righteousness and His Law with all your heart and all your strength, and to hate with all your heart all unrighteousness, all sin; to fulfill the truth with all your heart and all your strength; to do good, and with your whole heart, all your strength to depart from evil—that is, all kinds of sin, without giving place in your heart to any kind of sin even for a minute, not even for a moment. This means to not agree to it, not sympathize with it, not make peace with it, but to continually, eternally be at enmity with sin, warring against it, and thus making yourself a brave and victorious warrior of Christ God.

Or let’s take another example: Let’s say, that you are being persecuted for your piety, for the truth, for virtue. If you love God, then you will not step away even for a minute from piety, from truth, from virtue, although this devotion to truth might bring the loss of some advantage. Because truth itself, or faithfulness to God and His truth is the greatest advantage we can have, and God can reward faithfulness to His truth a hundredfold in this life and the age to come. An example of this is Righteous Joseph, the son of the Old Testament patriarch Jacob, and many righteous people in the New Testament. Thus, loving God with all your heart means to struggle for God, for His truth with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. That is how the holy fathers and martyrs struggled for God and His truth, especially in the struggle against heresies and schisms. This is zeal for God. Loving God with all your heart also means to use all your strength to turn people to God, to His love, to his laudation, to His eternal Kingdom; so that all would come to know Him, to love Him and to glorify Him. This is also zeal for God.

Having explained to the best of our ability the first commandment, we shall now explain the second: Love thy neighbor as thyself. What does it mean to love our neighbor, that is, every person, as ourself? It means to honor another as you would wish to be honored, to never consider anyone an outsider but one of your own, your own brother, your own member; and a Christian, as Christ’s member; to consider his good, his salvation as your own good, your own salvation; to rejoice in his prosperity as if it were your own and to sorrow over his misfortune as if it were your own; to try to deliver him from calamity, assaults, poverty, and sin, just as hard you would try to get delivered yourself. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep (Rom. 12:15), says the apostle. We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification (Rom 15:1–2). Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed (Js. 5:16). To love your neighbor as yourself means to respect him as yourself, if he is anyway worthy of it, do not think of him as unworthy or low without any cause for this on his part, and have no anger against him. Do not envy him, but always wish him well, condescend to his inadequacies, his weaknesses, cover his sins with love, just as we also would like people to condescend to our inadequacies. Forbearing one another in love (Eph. 4:2), says the apostle, Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing (1 Pet. 3:9). Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you (Mt. 5:44). If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink (Prov. 25:22; Rom. 12:20), says Old Testament Scripture. Loving your neighbor as yourself means to pray for the living and the dead, for relations and those unrelated, acquaintances and strangers, for friends and enemies—all equally, as if for yourself and to wish them the same good, salvation of soul as for yourself. This is what the holy Church teaches in its daily prayers. To love your neighbor as yourself means also to love everyone impartially, regardless of whether they are poor or rich, of comely appearance or uncomely, old or young, upper class or simple folk, healthy or infirm; whether they’re useful to us or not, a friend or a foe—because they are God’s all the same, all are made in the image of God, all are God’s children, Christ’s members (if they be Orthodox Christians), all are our members. For we are one body, one spirit (Eph. 4:4), all of us have one Head—Christ God. Let us thus understand and so strive to fulfill the two main commandments of God’s Law, and we will inherit life eternal, by the grace of Christ God.

St. John of Kronstadt
Translation by


Peter11/28/2021 11:06 pm
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