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the aim above all other aims

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22: 34-40
Maybe today you’re a bit like me in one respect. It’s this. I don’t take kindly to being commanded, to being told. The Ten Commandments given to Moses around 1300 BC (along with a plethora of Jewish laws) are no exception. Deep down, I start with a touch of rebellion. Do you?

Back in the First Century AD, in Jerusalem, the great and the good, along with the teachers of those laws had managed to increase the number of God’s commandments – to them - to 613. In their minds they endorsed all of them - without necessarily obeying all or any of them. No wonder then that one of those teachers, in the final few days before Jesus was crucified – and rose again - asked Jesus which one of the 613 was truly the greatest.  

The first commandment, he said, was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. But he didn’t stop there. He said that a second great commandment was similar to the first and greatest. It was the commandment to love your neighbour as yourself.

‘If you claim to love Christ and yet are living an unholy life, there is only one thing to say about you. You are a bare faced liar!’ (D M Lloyd Jones, preacher and writer, 1899-1981)
On reflection, I’m not so opposed to a commandment to love, are you? I prefer that to a commandment to do – or not to do – something. Today Jesus' second commandment is endorsed as good and right and proper by most people in Jersey and elsewhere. If I love my neighbour as myself, I won’t do harm to others – but rather do good to them all. But is that a mental endorsement only? Do I do it?

Jersey has in fact brought into its own legislation, a law intended to have the same outcomes as the second greatest commandment of 3,300 years ago. It’s the Human Rights (Jersey) Law and it came into effect in 2006. 

That Law is, actually, quite far-reaching because it sets out a number of "rights" to which every single person in Jersey is entitled. Examples are: the right to life; the right never to be tortured; the right to marry; the right to a fair trial; the right to education, and so on. 

By Jersey Law, I have those rights and, reading them, one can see how they are all, without exception, rights that any person would give to his neighbour if he loved his neighbour as much as he loved himself. "You shall love your neighbour as yourself."

But – but there is a major difference between Jesus' ancient second most important commandment and Jersey's Human Rights Law. It’s this. The commandment to love focuses on others and my duty of love towards them; Jersey Law focuses on me and my right to demand stuff from others. Big difference. Others focused - not self-focused. 

I have zero difficulty with a law setting out my rights. As I mentioned earlier I have great difficulty with a law demanding that I do – or not do – something. This second greatest commandment of Jesus, whilst admirable in principle, is exceedingly difficult for a Jersey person to follow because true love requires a heart change, deep within. 

Jersey’s Human Rights Law hasn’t brought about that kind of change in heart and mind. Elsewhere, similar laws have given rise to litigation - fights to the bitter end to obtain what I now know to be my rights - which others are refusing to give me. 

What then has the power to change hearts and minds – to create love, within me and deep inside my soul? The great commandment that Jesus identified is also impossible to keep. That commandment asks us so to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind. When we do – when we do - we then have God’s heart - a heart that loves and gives and gives and gives again to others. 


 ‘Love = to live for.’ (Mary Slessor, missionary to Nigeria, 1848-1915)
His is the heart that came into this world to die in the place of his enemies so as to bring them to glory -bring them to glory but only if they wish - not otherwise. Otherwise would not accord with their human right to decide their own pathway, their own future.

Sinner Syvret

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