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 neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."
(Matthew 22:35-40, ESV)
Yesterday, I posted the first half of J.C. Ryle’s comments on these verses from Expository Thoughts on Matthew. Today, let’s look at what he says about love for others:
Love is the grand secret of right behaviour towards our fellow-men. He who loves his neighbour will scorn to do him any wilful injury, either in person, property, or character.--But he will not rest there: he will desire in every way to do him good; he will strive to promote his comfort and happiness in every way; he will endeavour to lighten his sorrows, and increase his joys. When a man loves us, we feel confidence in him: we know that he will never intentionally do us harm, and that in every time of need he will be our friend. Would we teach children to behave aright towards others? Let us teach them to "love everybody as themselves, and do to others as they would have others do to them."
And how shall we obtain this love towards our neighbour? This also is no natural feeling. We are born selfish, hateful, and hating one another. (Titus 3:3) We shall never love our fellow-men aright till our hearts are changed by the Holy Ghost: we must be born again; we must put off the old man, and put on the new, and receive the mind that was in Christ Jesus. Then, and not till then, our cold hearts will know true God-like love towards all. "The fruit of the Spirit is love." (Galatians 5:22)
Let these things sink down into our hearts. There is much vague talk in these latter days about "love" and "charity:" men profess to admire them and desire to see them increased, and yet hate the principles which alone can produce them. Let us stand fast in the old paths. We cannot have fruits and flowers without roots: we cannot have love to God and man without faith in Christ, and without regeneration. The way to spread true love in the world, is to teach the atonement of Christ, and the work of the Holy Ghost.
This is a very helpful way for me to think about the unbelievers around me. I cannot expect them to have a natural, warm heart towards others. The "roots" must come before the "fruit." And the roots will only come from the seeds that are faithfully sown.