Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David - that is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful - for he cannot deny himself.
Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.
Your ways, O Lord, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my saviour. (R./)
Good and upright is the Lord;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
he teaches the humble his way. (R./)
All the paths of the Lord are kindness and constancy
toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
The friendship of the Lord is with those who fear him,
and his covenant, for their instruction. (R./)
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?" Jesus answered, "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
Then the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that 'he is one, and besides him there is no other;' and 'to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,' and 'to love one's neighbour as oneself,'--this is much more important that all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." After that no one dared to ask him any question.
The gospel links love and commandment, or Torah. Normally we do not think of love as law but as a generous response of one person to another. The highest love is a total gift of self, "with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength." It reaches out to others and loves them as truly as we love ourselves. Such love is worth more than all burnt offering or sacrifice. Without love, things have little meaning, while with it we are "not far from the reign of God."
Writing to Timothy, Paul tells of what he has endured for the faith, even being thrown into chains, and of being willing to die with Christ, that we may live with him. He urges Timothy to value fidelity to Christ above mere doctrinal disputation. The main purpose of living is to do the holy will of God.
We need each other's help, for at one time this one suffers and later it is the other who is in need. We support one another, the able-bodied caring for the weak; for sooner or later the tables are turned and the strong will be the ones needing help. And in our weakness there is still hope, as Paul writes: "If we are unfaithful God still remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself."
A learned Jew comes to Jesus and asks, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" There were a lot of rules and regulations in their religion and he wanted to know which one came first.
The answer went beyond the question. Jesus gave both the first and the second, to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves. These two principles are inseparable. We cannot love truly God without loving our neighbour, and in loving our neighbour we are, at the same time, loving God.
Still, the two are not on the same level, for one is first and one is second. The love of God is to be the primary love in our lives. We owe our lives to God and so we should "Seek first the kingdom of God." If we really love God, it will overflow into love of others, and our various links with other people will reflect something of God's love for them.