"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Jesus didn’t want to send a signal that it is perfectly fine to have ritual faithfulness or institutional regularity and not have healthy, human relationships. Part of having a faith commitment to Christ is a commitment to honor Him in our human exchanges.
This week’s text comes right after a Sadducees’ attempt to trap and discredit Jesus. In this hostile environment, Jesus responds to the Sadducee and explains how to turn our hearts and thoughts towards healthy relationships: “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself” (Matthew 22: 37-40MSG).
If we don’t first build a strong relationship with God, we will never understand how to have healthy relationships with others. When we have a strong relationship with God, we don’t need to be needy in our other relationships. We are already filled and satisfied. By rooting our relationships with God, dangerous emotions like jealousy fade away, because we know that God, in His providence, connected us for mutual benefit, not competition. Our strengths and weaknesses can then cover each other and build each other up.
But we can’t expect all of our relationships to be for our benefit. Jesus said when He returns, the righteous will ask Him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ and He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:44-45 NIV).
It is important for us to be able to help those who cannot help themselves. Because all of our relationships are built on our relationship with God, we can bring God’s healing to those from whom we will never receive any material benefit. If we approach relationships with a utilitarian mindset, we have completely misunderstood our relationship with God.
God hasn’t knitted us together so that one person must give up everything for the other, but so that we can benefit from each other—not simply materially but spiritually.
If we want to live our best, God-honoring lives, we need to look at our relationships. We need to ask ourselves how healthy they are, but even more, we need to ask ourselves, how healthy is our relationship with God?