Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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by John David Clark, Sr.
“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang the whole law and the prophets.”
Righteousness is all about relationships. Every commandment God has ever given was designed for one purpose; that is, to guide us into right relationships, either with God or with one another. From Genesis to Revelation, every story, every prophecy, and every commandment serves this one purpose. Holy life is a life of right relationships. There can be no righteousness where there are no right relationships. No one but God can be holy by himself, including the Son of God, but even God chose not to be holy alone!
The law that God gave Moses revealed to man how to live with God and with others. When God said, “You shall not make for yourself an idol,” He was revealing how to have a right relationship with Him. When He said, “You shall not kill” and “You shall not steal,” He was revealing how to have right relationships with others. Righteousness is all about relationships.
Both the Old and the New Testaments give us instructions concerning relationships with people who occupy specific places in our lives, such as husband, wife, parent, child, as well as with such people as prophets, pastors, and teachers. There is a right relationship to be had with each person who is in your life.
The places that people occupy and the spiritual conditions of people vary so widely that the Bible cannot tell us how to have a right relationship in every circumstance with every person. That is why Jesus suffered and died. We needed the holy Spirit to guide us into a right relationship with every person, in every circumstance.
Paul told us to “comfort the faint-hearted” and to “warn the disorderly”. He also said, “Let elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in word and in doctrine.” Now, if instead of warning the disorderly, someone comforts them, or if someone warns the elders that do well instead of honoring them, or gives double honor to the faint-hearted instead of comforting them, that person doesn’t have a right relationship with those people. The Spirit must reveal to us who is “disorderly”, who is “faint-hearted”, and who is “an elder that rules well” so that we can conduct ourselves appropriately toward them.
Once you realize the value of having right relationships, you will strive to have a right relationship with everyone. You will even strive to have a right relationship with the devil. God has a right relationship with the devil, and we can, too. God cast him out of heaven, and Paul exhorted us to be like God and make no room for the devil (Eph. 4:27). Sometimes, having a right relationship means having no relationship at all (“Not even to eat” – 1Cor. 5:11). Paul told certain congregations to cast out unruly members because of their stubborn and rebellious conduct (e.g., 1Cor. 5:13). Jesus also mentioned cutting off members of the body so that the whole body could be preserved (Mt. 5:29–30). So, there is no such thing as a man having a right relationship with God but a poor relationship with God’s people. Jesus said, “As often as you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you did it to me.” John said, “For he who doesn’t love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” I recently spoke with a man who thought that his relationship with God was fine, even though his relationship with the body of Christ was almost non-existent. He is fooling himself.
There is no relationship with God that excludes His children. This means that if you have a relationship with God, then you have right relationships with members of the body of Christ. This is why no loners will escape damnation. They may judge themselves to be godly, but without right relationships, they will be cast into the Lake of Fire.
It is unwise to be closer to someone than that person is to God. It is unwise to trust anyone more than that person trusts God, or to follow any person unless that person is following God. Even the great apostle Paul said, “Follow me, as I follow Christ.” Only those who are led by the Spirit of God have a right relationship with anybody. That is why Paul said that only those that are led by the Spirit of God are the real children of God (Rom. 8:14). It is wise to love and trust those people.
All right relationships in the kingdom of God can be described as a triangle. The three corners of the triangle are you, God, and another person – with God in the middle and over all. No one has a right relationship with anybody unless God is in the middle. My father taught that God is so jealous over His people that He even wants to sleep between a man and his wife – and that if He did not, there was bound to be trouble between them. God’s commandments are expressions of His love, written out. They teach us how to love others the way God loves. In other words, they teach us what true love is. That’s why Paul wrote, “Love is fulfillment of the law.”
One man asked Jesus, “Which is the greatest commandment?” Jesus told him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And then Jesus volunteered what was the second greatest commandment. He said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Then Jesus added, “On these two commandments hang the whole law and the prophets.” Think about that. The whole of our lives, as life should be lived, is summarized in two commandments which direct us to love God completely and to love others as ourselves. True righteousness is, indeed, all about relationships. How are the relationships in your life?