From the Word
The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Romans 13:9, RSV
Love being the chief element of all law, it comprehends all commandments. Its one concern is to be useful and not harmful to man. Love is the chief virtue, the fountain of all virtues. Love gives food and drink; it clothes, comforts, persuades, relieves and rescues. What shall we say of it, for behold, he who loves gives himself, body and soul, property and honor, all his powers internal and external, for his needy neighbor’s benefit, whether it be friend or enemy; he withholds nothing wherewith he may serve another. There is no virtue like love; there can be no special work assigned it as in the case of limited virtues, such as chastity, mercy, patience, meekness and the like. Love does all things. It will suffer in life and in death, in every condition, and that even for its enemies. Paul may well say that all other commandments are briefly comprehended in this saying, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
This commandment presents the standard by which we are to measure our love. It is an excellent model and holds up a truly living example, “thyself.” It is a better model than any example the saints have set. The saints are dead and their deeds are past, but this example ever lives. Every one must admit a consciousness of his own love for himself; of the careful nourishment of his body with food, raiment and all good things; of his fleeing from death and avoiding evil. This is self-love; something we are conscious of in ourselves. What, then, is the teaching of the commandment? To do to another as you do to yourself; to value his body and his life equally with your own body and life. How could God have pointed you to an example dearer, more pleasing, and more to the purpose than this example—the deep instinct of your own nature? The depth of your character is measured by the writing of this commandment in your heart. How will you fare with God if you do not love your neighbor? With this commandment written within your heart, your conscience will condemn you. Your whole conduct will be an example witnessing against you.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 62–63.
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