Near the conclusion of the great sermon on the mount, the Lord gave the following directive:
“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 7:12)
This verse offers one of the greatest and most universally accepted doctrines in all of Christianity. In fact, this concept of love and reciprocity not only encompasses Christianity, but similar statements and variations of this are taught in many of the major religions of the world. Perhaps no teaching is so widely taught and accepted in all of theology. Indeed, the Golden Rule, as it is now known, is one of the simplest and yet vast-reaching admonitions in all of history.
The depth of this teaching is often lost in its simplicity. This commandment to treat others with love and respect is more than a trite expression to recite to our children. As the Savior himself stated, “this is the law and the prophets.” What does that mean? My own understanding of this is that the concept of loving each other is the foundational teaching upon which all the scriptures and all the teachings of the prophets are predicated. The “law” as the Jews of Christ’s time would understand it would be the law of Moses - the written commandments and outward ordinances as passed down from God to Moses - and all “the prophets” meaning all the additional teachings of the prophets as recorded from the beginning of time. These are the very concepts that God has revealed to his children for them to learn and to help develop in them the godlike attributes that will accelerate their eternal progression.
Later, in the book of Matthew, the Lord again clearly teaches the importance of this critical truth. As a lawyer came to tempt the Savior, or catch him in his words, he asked the Lord, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
“This is the first and great commandment.
“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 22:36 – 40)
Once again, the Lord directly declares in language that cannot be misinterpreted, that the fundamental and overriding basis of all the gospel is to love. We are to love God and love our fellow man. This principle of pure love is the very principle upon which the concept of Christ becoming our savior was ever conceivable. In the preexistence Jesus Christ loved God so much that he wanted to follow the pattern that our Heavenly Father had established for our eternal progression. He also loved each of us enough that he was willing to be the sacrificial offering to make the plan work and satisfy justice while still allowing for mercy. Throughout scripture there is no greater principle taught than that of love. Love is indeed the very reason why God has given us commandments as well as the purest reason as to why we keep His commandments.
Brothers and sisters, as we strive to be true disciples of Christ in this world of conflict and strife, let us center our faith in the Lord and His ability to magnify our efforts as we attempt each day to love as He would love. If we find ourselves feeling that our testimonies are not as strong as we would like, let us focus our thoughts and actions on loving those around us and see if the Lord does not testify in our hearts that He also loves us. If depression or doubt tries to weaken our resolve, let us reach out to others with charity and see if God will not ease our burden. Let us not allow our love to be a passive thought, but let us act to bring forth good fruits so that all may be lifted by the light of the Savior in our actions. This is the gospel that our Savior has perfectly taught. It is my testimony that He will strengthen us as we show our love for Him by our sincere loving actions to our neighbors. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.