From the perspective of Catholic and Orthodox Christians, God's chosen people before Jesus Christ were a particular people, the Jewish people.
According to God's plan, revealed in the Old Testament scriptures, the Jews were, by their dedication to God's law and by their religious example, meant to influence other peoples and lead them to God. According to the Jewish law and the prophets, even as God's special people, they were meant by God to spread the message of divine care or concern for all peoples of the world to their neighbors. However, over time and because of persecution, conquest, and oppression, much of Judaism became more inward-looking and legalistic. Jesus Christ, by his interpretation of the Old Law and presentation of the New Law, released his followers from many of these specifically Jewish laws that set Jews apart. In the Catholic and Orthodox view he took the spirit of the Jewish law and gave it an interpretation that made it more universal.
Jesus Christ extended the law of love to a world beyond the Jewish people. It is this universal spiritual law that one of his disciples, Saint Paul, carried to the world outside of Palestine—to the people to whom he writes in his Epistles, or Letters. These people include the Galatians, the Ephe-sians, the Colossians, the Corinthians, and the Romans.
The spreading of Christ's teachings beyond these cities to the whole world has taken many centuries. In the Far East and in Muslim territories, its influence is still very small. Of the roughly 6.5 billion people in the world today, however, approximately 1.1 billion are Catholics and about 220 million more are Orthodox Christians.
A Universal Law
The Old Law of the Jewish tradition was reinterpreted by Christ to create a new universal law. It is best summed up in the following quote from Luke 10:25-28:
There was a lawyer who to disconcert him stood up and said to him, "Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the Law? What do you read there?" He replied, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with allyour soul, with all your strength, and with allyour mind, and your neighbor as yourself." "You have answered right," said Jesus. "Do this and life is yours."
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