Posted by: ritagone | November 29, 2017

J.B. Phillips Has Something To Say To Us

Here’s a great little section in J.B. Phillips’ “The Newborn Christian,” a book which I continue to read every morning and continue to find a huge blessing in my life.  Hope you will too.


The Love Commandments



To love God with the whole of our personalities and powers is, according to the words of Christ recorded in Matthew 22:38, the “first and great commandment.” Yet among the thousands of people outside the ranks of the Church there would be very few who could be found to agree with him.  “Be a decent chap and don’t worry your head too much about God” – this is the working philosophy of a good many people.

Those of us who profess and call ourselves Christians are committed to accept Christ’s authority, though not unthinkingly; and when we come to look behind what appear at first to be arbitrary commands, we find that invariably He had good reasons for the principles He laid down.  So it is here…

Unless we believe in God and love Him, the qualities we value, the things we call “good” or “bad,” are purely a matter of personal opinion.  Your “good” may be my “bad” and vice versa…But Christians have an influence on national thought and conscience out of all proportion to their numerical strength; and even today a very large part of our tradition of behavior is nothing less than the fruit of Christian ideals having percolated almost imperceptibly into our habits of thinking…

It is comparatively easy for us to love those “neighbors” who are nice and friendly towards us.  It is easy to love the attractive and charming personalities of our friends.  But Christ made it quite clear that loving our “neighbor” did not stop at loving our particular circle, but loving all those with whom life brought us into contact.

You will remember His semi-humorous comment on those who thought that to love their particular friends was enough – “Do not even the publicans the same?” We might paraphrase that – “Aren’t even the tax-collectors nice to their pals?” No, if there is ever to be a happy and peaceful world we have all of us got to learn to understand and to love the difficult, the exasperating, and the unlovable – and that is a superhuman task.

I use the word “superhuman” deliberately, for by ourselves, without the inspiration that comes from loving God, it is plainly impossible for us to love, in the sense that Christ uses the word, our fellow men.

A clergyman probably realizes this far more acutely than the average layman.  There are many departments of life where obviously you possess more knowledge and experience than I do; but in this matter of living in love and charity with all kinds of people the parson has to know a good deal.  Forgive my plain speaking, but is it not true that if you find someone who is “difficult” or conceited or annoying, it is quite the easiest thing in the world for you simply to withdraw yourself and make friends with just those with whom you get on?  But such a course is not open to me.  I have to learn to understand and work with all kinds of different temperaments and outlooks, and in consequence I get a unique opportunity of seeing just how difficult is Christ’s second commandment – to love other people as we love ourselves.

Frankly, I see no prospect of our even wanting to obey the second commandment seriously until we have begun to obey the first.  We don’t really see other men and women as our brothers and sisters simply by talking airily about the brotherhood of man.  We only see them as such when we begin to get a vision of God the Father.  It is so fatally easy to talk highfalutin hot air about all the world being “one big family,” and yet fail to “get on” with the members of our own families, or with those who live next door, or in the apartment above us.  In sober fact, men do not really love their fellows, except their own particular friends, until they have seriously begun to love God.  It is only then that we learn to drop the destructive attitude of hatred and contempt and criticism, and begin to adopt the constructive attitude of Christian love.  So, then, the second reason for the command to love God being “the first and great commandment”’ is that we don’t really keep the second until we have obeyed the first.



This was written 40 years ago.  Wouldn’t you say it’s as pertinent and applicable now as it was then…maybe more so?



  1. I’ve not heard of this book. But I love his translation of the New Testament.

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