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human rights

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: '................' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these.       Mark 12: 28-31 (with the most important commandment omitted)


Back in the First Century AD, in Jerusalem, the teachers of the law had identified, in the formal tomes of the Jewish Scriptures kept from centuries past (now the Old Testament in Christian Bibles), the exact number - 613 - of commandments.

No wonder one of those teachers asked Jesus which one of the 613 was the most important. Strange, though, that Jesus chose two commandments instead of one.  

Even more intriguing, however, is that Jesus' second commandment has also, of very recent years, been identified in Jersey as being of vital importance. Jersey now has amongst its enactments the Human Rights (Jersey) Law 2000 - a Law that came into force only as recently as 10 December 2006. 

That Law is, actually, quite far-reaching because it sets out a number of "rights" (intended to be a complete high-level set) 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.

Reading these, one can see how they are all, without exception, rights that I would expect and wish my neighbours to grant to me at all times. In fact, they are 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 I am going to thrust a stick into the spokes........  Jesus' age old second most important commandment (dating back to around 1350 BC at least) goes much further than Jersey's Human Rights Law in (at least) two vital ways.

First, it is worded as a responsibility and not as a right. Its focus is on others and my love towards them - not on me and my rights against others. Big difference. Others focused - not self-focused. My responsibilities - not my rights.

Second, it requires me, through love, to live all my life, with everything I have and with all my time, as much for my neighbour as for myself. I am commanded to treat my neighbour as of equal importance as myself in the allocation of my money, time, concern and compassion.

Yes, it's that difficult. In fact, this second most important commandment is impossible for a Jersey person to keep.

To follow "You shall love your neighbour as yourself" is far too difficult because love requires a heart change, deep within. And, even then, the out-working of that heart change implies enormous difficulties unless all others are of the same mind.

Will the Human Rights (Jersey) Law 2000, now in operation for over 250 days, bring about that kind of change in heart and mind? For many within the States and the Courts of Jersey, the belief has been that more litigation would be the outcome of that Law - more fights to the bitter end about rights that others (public authorities in the case of this Law) have refused to give or acknowledge. 

What then has the power to change hearts and minds? 

Ah, well, as Jesus said: "With man it is impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God."  The first and most important commandment that Jesus identified is also impossible to keep. That commandment asks us so to love Almighty God that we then have his heart - a heart that gives and gives and gives to others. A heart that came into this world to die on behalf of others so as to bring them to glory.....

.....bring them to glory - but only if they wish - not otherwise. Otherwise would not be in accord with their human rights. He still says: ‘Come to me…’

Phillips Brooks, Clergyman and author (1835-1893):  ‘Duty makes us do things well, but love makes us do them beautifully.'
‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' (Jesus stating the most important commandment in AD 30)
Richard Syvret

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