Jesus sums up in two sentences the entire Mosaic Law and the Prophets, that is, the duty of holiness and of prophetic mission in the world: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30–31). Although these two commands are found in the Old Testament, what is original in Jesus’ teaching is that he brings them together. They become a singular command. Jesus is saying that we cannot love God if we do not love our brother; God will not forgive us if we do not forgive our brother (Matt. 6:14–15). In short, we shall be judged as we judge others.
Why is Jesus so rigid on this point? Because anyone who sets limits toward loving his neighbor raises a wall between himself and the God whose love knows no limits. God’s kingdom seeks to overcome barriers. This is why Jesus is extraordinarily indulgent toward sinners. He displays unbounded love and kindness toward them; he never ceases to believe in the possibility of their turning from their sin. But he is uncompromising with hypocrites, that is, with the spiritually proud who have no love for their brothers and sisters.
Jesus’ new commandment demands that we translate the rulership of God into everyday language through our bodies: Love your neighbor, serve him, heal him, even if this means breaking traditions or laws. Give in to him rather than offend him and turn him away from God. Whatever you do, don’t make yourself an obstacle on his way to God. One’s neighbor’s physical well-being is as important as his spiritual life; the healing of the body and the healing of the soul are joined in a single operation. Christ’s revolution is total, or it is nothing.
The immediacy and simplicity of this new commandment liberate us from fears, from plans, from complicated orders issued by the state, whether in peacetime or in wartime, and from all that divides people from one another. Freed from all casuistry, one can joyfully serve others as well as refuse with the same joy any attempt on humanity’s existence. We no longer need to be impressed by great principles quoted to us, or with great historical moments that call for bloodshed. It is so simple. Any endeavor to serve the needs of others, especially those that benefit children, the persecuted, prisoners, the exploited, the aged, the infirm, will advance God’s kingdom, even if only minutely.
The Christian objector to war or military service is thus not a purist who, on the day he receives orders to kill his neighbor, wakes from his dream to say no. He is a servant with experienced hands, who is so busy helping his neighbor that to interrupt his activity to undertake the task of killing is unthinkable to him.
Perhaps it is true that certain violent remedies employed against tyrants have put an end to certain forms of evil, but they have not eliminated evil. Evil itself will take root elsewhere, as we have seen through history. The fertilizer that stimulates its growth is yesterday’s violence. Even “just wars” and “legitimate defense” bring vengeance in their train. Fresh crimes invariably ensue.
The state – the way of power – can only work from the past to anticipate the future and determine its course. As long as the church abandons its calling, the state will know nothing of repentance. But the church in its midst does know repentance, and it knows only that, and it bears witness to that before the state, for the healing of the nations. If Christ’s followers do not surpass the state in justice, they do not belong to God’s kingdom; they leave the world to fend for itself in the agony of its abandonment.
Meanwhile Jesus, even if deserted by his church, climbs the road to Calvary, continuing to seek and to save those that are lost.