Advice books with advice on how to fix relationships have made authors millions of dollars (probably billions). Broken relationships is certainly a hot topic today as rioters vent in unproductive ways, people shoot or stab others, marriages crumble and political factions irritate each other like a large cyst on the sole of your foot.
It’s not as if any of these social and interpersonal ills are something new. King Solomon reminds us that there’s nothing new under the sun. Jesus reminded us that there would be war and rumors of war – implying that we should not be shocked at even the most extreme contempt humans can feel toward each other. Riots, murder and maiming are on one end of the spectrum (from our point of view). Family feuds, broken friendships are somewhere up there, too. Comparatively, choosing who will hang out with today, what you’ll read and how you’ll spend your time don’t seem like such a big deal – but they’re important, too.
The solution to all of these problems is relatively simple, yet our propensity to be self-centered makes it difficult. Yes, you can blame the serpent’s deception of Adam and Eve (and Adam and Eve’s willingness to not trust God). The solution to interpersonal relationships is pretty easy if you can get your ego out of the way. When you deflate your ego you need to fill the void that’s left with God.
How we interact with people depends a lot on our relationship with God.
There are two commands found in the Law we can use as a filter for anything action we want to take in life. First, God lays out the practical way to love your neighbor in Leviticus 19:9-18, 34. Second, we can love – really love – if we love God most of all (Deuteronomy 6:5).
In Matthew 22:36,, the Pharisees ask a good question, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” This is a question asked hundreds of times a day. You might not realize it, but you ask it when you are prioritizing your day, when you wonder if you should mention Jesus to the person next you in line at the store — or you when want to let someone know that they deserve a full outpouring of your wrath (but maybe have second thoughts about blowing off steam).
Just what is the most important thing God wants from you right now, at this very moment?
Our Lord Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees is straightforward: 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ”
Oh sure, you might be thinking, “I do love God but please, please, please (!) don’t tell me to love my neighbor. Well, tell me to love my neighbor – just so long as I can pick and choose who might be my neighbor.” At the core of the commandments is how we care for and care about people created by God. Also at the core of the commandments is how much do we love God. Does our love for Him permeate our heart, soul and mind?
Or, “Yeah, I love God. I’ll read the Bible um, er, Monday morning. Pray now? I really don’t have time now. I’ll do it later. The poor person on the street? I only have a quarter to give – an hour ago I could have given a dollar – so I’ll wait until I have another dollar. WHAT? If that person has a question about Jesus, I’ll never get home and MeTV has a M*A*S*H* marathon.”
Or, “If I make up with that person – I might have to talk to her/him again. Yuck.”
The Ultimate Solution to Everything
A big portion of the Bible deals with relationships between humans and God and between humans and humans. Actually, the entire Bible is about those relationships.
Jesus says in Matthew 22:40: “40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” What’s left to the Bible after that? The Law points to our relationship with God and guides our relationships with other people. The Prophets point to our relationship with God and the solution to sin and our broken relationship with Him through Jesus the Messiah.
Everything you do or want to do has to answer these two questions affirmatively:
“Am I doing it because I love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul and mind?”
and “Am I doing it because I love my neighbor as myself?” The answer has to be “yes” to both questions.
Ask these two questions to guide everything you do, including:
(1) entertainment, how you spend your time off or weekday evenings;
(2) arguing with a friend or relative;
(3) sharing the good news of the Messiah with someone;
(4) how much time you spend focused on God.
You see, if you love God with all of your being, you’ll make studying the Bible the priority in your life. You will want to please God and, because of the grace and mercy He has shown you, you will want to reflect Him in everything you do. You’ll desire prayer. You’ll want to be like Enoch and walk with Him. If you love God with all your heart, soul and mind your life will be permeated with Him. The Holy Spirit will be oozing from you.
Likewise, if you love your neighbor as yourself, everyone you have contact with will be more important than your ego. Feed the hungry? Care for the hurting? Share the Gospel? Comfort the grieving? Cheer up the melancholy? Pray? Study the Bible together?
Yes to all of the above and I know you can think of a whole lot more!
Those two commandments heal marriages and other friendships, drive away temptations of all sorts, and create wonderful relationships with people who will become former strangers.
Everything in the Bible is tied to those commandments.
Everything you do (and think) is directly tied to those two commandments.
Are you willing to serve the Lord God, and love Him and His creation with all your heart, soul and mind?
“Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” – Joshua 22:5