Have you ever wondered why Jesus linked “Love your neighbor” with “Love God with all your heart” when He was asked to identify the greatest commandment? John knew. He wrote to the early church, because they evidently struggled to understand it too. He said,
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
John understood that Jesus’ call on his life (and the life of every disciple) is borne out of both the vertical relationship with God and the horizontal relationship we have with people. Frankly, can we imagine any earthly good in following Jesus if it does NOT result in changing how we relate to other people? So, I started thinking about the implications of this. What does God change in my relationship choice if I am following Jesus?
- I respond differently to authority.
- I respond differently to conflict.
- I respond differently to my spouse and children.
- I respond differently to people who don’t like me.
- I respond differently to customers and bosses.
- I respond differently to leaders.
Just think about how Jesus instructed the disciples to deal with conflict and the cultural norm of vengeance and hatred: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” It completely transforms that attitude because of grace.
As a pastor, I made a decision a long time ago. I needed a few men in my life who cared more about what kind of disciple, husband, father, and friend I was than what kind of pastor I was. I needed relationships that challenged me to grow in my relationship with the Lord and with people. I could not be a “Lone Ranger” disciple. That life is fiction.
If it’s fiction for me, I’m convinced it’s fiction for everyone. You simply won’t find a picture of solo discipleship in the New Testament. We were made for relationship–both with GOD and with PEOPLE. If you find yourself withdrawing from people, if you feel like you have “had it” with people, it’s time for repentance. Something has happened in your soul and you cannot pretend that your relationship with God is healthy if your relationships with people are unhealthy or shut off. John tells us that it simply can’t be possible. Loving God and loving neighbor are irrevocably connected.