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Religion Library: Christianity

Principles of Moral Thought and Action

Written by: Beth Davies-Stofka

In Christian teaching, worship is not limited to Sundays and other important days. All of life should be the worship of God, expressed not only in ritual and prayer, but in how a Christian lives. The Christian is transformed by God's love and is a new person, redeemed by Christ and restored to God. The highest expression of that transformation is found in acts of love toward others, or love of neighbor. the Gospel of Matthew, an expert in the Torah asks Jesus, "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" In his reply, Jesus cites two commandments. The "first and greatest" of these is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is a quote from Deuteronomy 6:5, a passage found in the Torah. The second "greatest" commandment is to "Love your neighbor as yourself," also found in the Torah, in Leviticus 19:18. Not only did he isolate these as the two most important commandments in the Torah, Jesus added that "All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matthew 22:36-40).

Jews viewed the Torah as a gift from God, so Jesus naturally referred to the Torah to provide guidance in loving God and neighbor. Being devout Jews, the first Christians followed Jesus' example, turning to the Torah as their guide for understanding how love works in real life. Christians view the Ten Commandments, found in Exodus 20, as the ideal guide to living the life that God intends.

Jesus preaches the Sermon on the Mount Source: first four commandments guide Christians on how to love God, and the last six guide Christians on how to love others. These ten simple rules form the basic guide, given by God, to the full expression of Christian love. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus addresses several of these commandments and intensifies their application. For example, he not only forbids murder, he calls his followers to recognize that unresolved anger also destroys others. He not only forbids adultery, but calls his followers to purity of mind and heart.

New Testament Epistles
(many scholars doubt whether Paul wrote the bracketed letters)
Letters of PaulRomans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, [Ephesians], Philippians, [Colossians], 1 Thessalonians, [2 Thessalonians], [1 Timothy], [2 Timothy], [Titus], Philemon
Other LettersHebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude

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