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The Second Greatest Commandment

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. (31) And the second, like it, is this:  ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (35) By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”  (Joh 13:34-5).

Love one Another

You are My disciples, if you have love for one another

A Christ-like life, Christianity if you will, can be condensed and simplified down into one word “Relationships.”  A relationship with God first and foremost which is the vertical stem of the tree we call Christianity and second our relationship with others the horizontal stem of that tree.  These stems make up the cross of atonement.

When Jesus was asked the most important commandment, He answered ,one’s relationship with God the Father. He then quickly followed by saying our relationship with his neighbor is the close second. It therefore becomes safe and easy assumption that these two commandments are the foundation of Christian living. In fact Jesus implied that without this foundation you are not My disciples.  Today, I want us to examine closely this foundation.

What is the component that makes up this foundation?  Love – God’s pure love!

A.         What exactly is the love, God is speaking of?

B.          From where does this Love come?  To whom does it extend? 

C.         What does God’s love produce.  Relationships with God and Man.

D.         What are the actions needed to maintain a True, lasting relationship?


A.         What exactly is the love, God is speaking of?  It is the noblest form of love.  Agape has to do with the mind: it is not simply an emotion which rises unbidden in our hearts of man it is a principle by which we deliberately live.  It is the kind of love that we must have for all men — even our enemies (Matthew 5:44). The Christian must always act out of love, i.e., in the best interest of his fellow human beings. Unquestionably, the most exhaustive treatment of what this kind of love involves is found in 1 Corinthians 13. Within this context, the inspired apostle gives more than a dozen descriptions which regulate the operation of agape love.  And what a challenge they are. To study them carefully is to come to the rude awakening of how far we fall short of measuring up to the divine ideal if concern for others. The following is the sacred text as it appears in the New King James Version.  “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; (5) does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; (6) does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the  truth; (7) bears all  

things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (8a) Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a).

In 1st Corinthians 13: 4–8, we have what might be described as the “Spectrum of Love,” or the analysis of Love.  Let’s look at what the essentials of Love are.  You will notice that these elements have common names.  In fact, they are virtues that we hear about every day.  They are things that can be practiced by every man at any time in life.

The Spectrum of Love has nine ingredients:

  1. Patience –“Love suffers long”
  2. Kindness –“And is kind”
  3. Generosity –“love envies not”
  4. Humility  “love does not parade itself, is not puffed up/Boastful
  5. Courtesy – “does not behave rudely/Arrogantly
  6. Unselfishness – “does not seek its own/it is not Rude
  7. Good tempered – “is not easily provoked/Selfish
  8. Guilelessness – “thinks no evil”
  9.  Sincerity – “rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth”
  10. Immovable - Bears all things
  11. Trusting/Supportive - Believes all things
  12. Giving the benefit of the doubt - Hopes all things
  13. Unwavering - Endures all things
  14. Love brings victory - Love never fails

1.           Long-suffering - The word makrothumei literally hints of taking a long time to get angry! In the New Testament, it has to do with how one should respond to abuse. Love patiently waits and attempts to win over one’s adversary.

2.           Kind - A wise man declared: “That which makes a man to be desired is his kindness” (Proverbs 19:22). Kindness includes attributes like friendliness, compassion, generosity, and tenderness. To be kind is to be God-like (Luke 6:35).

3.           Not Envious - The consuming flames of jealousy are as cruel as hell (Song of Solomon 8:6).  What is jealousy? Jealousy is a feeling of displeasure caused by the prosperity of another, coupled with a desire to wrest the advantage from the person who is the object of one’s envy.  The loving person will rejoice at the success of others. Jealousy has destroyed many a home and church. Envy was one of the sins responsible for the death of Christ (Matthew 27:18; cf. Acts 7:9; 17:5).

4.           Not Boastful - “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth” (Proverbs 27:2).  Genuine love is selfless. It seeks to extol the virtues of others. Love has words of encouragement for the lonely, the downtrodden, and others who deserve and need uplifting.

5.           Not Arrogant - The original language here denotes one who is inflated with a sense of personal pride. Pride is unreasonable self-esteem, generally accompanied by insolence and rude treatment of others. It deceives the heart (Jeremiah 49:16), hardens the mind (Daniel 5:20), and results in destruction (Proverbs 16:18).  Love is characterized by genuine humility.

6.            Not Rude - The Greek expression here literally suggests the notion of being “without form.” It encompasses all sorts of evil activity, bad manners, and brutal rudeness. Love doesn’t deliberately seek to be offensive.  Love operates with determined politeness. The terms “gentleman” and “lady” should reach their zenith in the context of Christianity.

7.           Not Selfish - The meaning is: love does not pursue its own interests. Love is not selfish. It has been said that there are two kinds of people: those who are always thinking of their rights, and those who concentrate on their responsibilities. Ours is an age of woeful selfishness.  By stark contrast was the sacrificial example of the Son of God (Philippians 2:5-8), the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 12:15), Timothy (Philippians 2:20), and numerous souls since those ancient times. Love thinks of others and seeks to serve.

8.           Not Quickly Provoked - Love does not have a short fuse; it does not stroll about with a chip on its shoulder.  Genuine love does everything possible to avoid combat. If conflict for truth has to come, so be it; but one should live only in Love!”

9.           Not a “Record-Keeper” of Mistakes - This descriptive does not mean that love ignores evil. The Greek word for “account” is from logizomai, a commercial expression which suggests writing a transaction in the record so as not to forget it.  Love does not keep score, as in, “Three times this month he has neglected to speak to me.”

10.       Bears all things - Love takes no Pleasure in Wrong, it acts only in Truth - Since love always seeks the good of others, it can never rejoice when evil prevails.  Divine love cannot be divorced from objective truth.

11.       Supportive/Trusting - The verb stego conveys the picture of one object on top of another, thus hinting of either support (by the lower object) or concealment (by the upper object) Love supports, uplifts those who are in need,   Love “would far rather set about quietly mending things than publicly displaying and rebuking them.”  It is unfortunate that some are militant to expose and rebuke, but so stubbornly resistant to forgiving.  There may be times where open exposure of wrong is necessary (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:1ff; 1 Timothy 5:20).  Trusting - This does not mean that love is gullible. Believing error is both wrong and dangerous (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12). Rather, the apostle has something else in mind.  The sense of the verb pisteuo (believes) here is probably that of trusting.  The word can surely have that meaning (cf. John 2:24), and that seems to be indicated here.  In these times when error is so rampant in the church, we must resist the temptation to be quickly and recklessly suspicious. It is never proper to shoot first and ask questions later. We should strive to be more trusting of our loved ones in Christ.

12.       Hopes - Love is optimistic; it entertains the highest expectations.  Sometimes we see a struggling brother and perhaps think: “He will never make it.” Whereas we ought to say, “I believe that with God’s assistance — and mine — he will make it!”  If we must err on the pessimism/optimism scale, let us err in the direction of hope.

13.       Endures - Even when adversity challenges again and again, love continues to operate. Agape is tough. It is not easily discouraged. It may, on occasion, have a bloody head; nonetheless, it keeps its face in the wind and forges ahead.  True love does not give up  on God, or on others.

14.       Never fails - The apostle concludes by affirming that agape “never fails.”  It will not

drop away; specifically be driven out of one’s course; figuratively to lose, become inefficient or ineffective: - be castaway or off), be of none effect.

These ingredients make up the supreme manifestation of Love, as well as the stature of the perfect man.  You will observe that all these are related to men and to life.  They all bear on the known today and the near tomorrow.  They have no bearing at all on the unknown eternity.  Do you remember the profound declaration that the former Pharisee Paul made about love?  “Love is the fulfillment of the Law” (Romans 13:10b, KJV).  Did you ever stop to think what was meant by that?  Jesus gave us the meaning in Matthew 22:36–40 (KJV).  “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?  Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Please notice that both these commands are demonstrations of love.  First loving God and then loving man.  These actions are called the greatest two commandments.  This plainly shows that love is the more excellent way and the graces resulting from God’s love are the best of all gifts.

In other words, if we love God and man unconditionally, there is no need for the other commandments, but there is still a need for the Gifts, because the Gifts of God extend from God’s love like fruit on a tree planted by God’s living waters.  The Spiritual Gifts working in conjunction with God’s Word give us the shortest, fastest, and safest directions.  They tell us which is the right way to go and which is not.  Whereas, Love gives us the power and the fuel to help others and ourselves arrive in glory. 

The man that truly loves his neighbor will not plot or do harm against him; he will not injure, nor defile his bed, nor rob or deceive, covet, or steal from him.  He will not damage his character, bear false testimony against him, but, on the contrary, he will bestow upon him all the good he is capable of and in the same manner as he wishes to receive.  Therefore, in love is the completion of all the requirements of the Law.

Love is the rule for fulfilling all rules, the new commandment for keeping all the old commandments.  As stated earlier, when Jesus was asked about the greatest of all commandments He responded by giving only two.  Love is the essence of both!  Love God above all.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  It could not be easier to understand.  Understanding is one thing however; doing is another.  Jesus made provision for that also.  He said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27).  Moreover, the apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

  1.  From where does this Love come?  To whom does it extend?  Romans 5:8  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  1st John 3:16  By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” 
  1. This love comes from God and God alone. The more we know God the more powerful our love will be extended upward toward Him.  “We love Him because He first loved us” (1st John 4:19).
  2. Then it extends outward to the unloving and unsaved.  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (35) By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”  (Joh 13:34-5).
  1. What does God’s love produce.  “If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen” (1st John 4:20)?  Let me make this very simple!  True, lasting and pure relationships starts with loving God.
  2. What are the actions needed to maintain a True, lasting relationship?
    1. Concede your need for others (Ref.  1st Thessalonians 1:7) - Just as a child needs a mother we need each other. In another letter Paul identified this need to belong, "So the eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" nor again the head to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, all the more, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are necessary" (1 Corinthians 12:20-22). This need for others is rooted deep within our souls. God planned it that way. That's why God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18).  This need for others is God-given and deeply rooted in our lives. Abraham Maslow, a nonbeliever, reinforced God's original design and planned through his well-known theory of the hierarchy of needs. Maslow believed that one could learn as much by studying healthy, well-adjusted people as one could by studying those with problems. His conclusion was that each of us has various levels of need. As we satisfy one level, we then move up to the next level.  Maslow's research revealed that before we can be a person of value and become all that we were intended to become we first must have our social needs met. We must be a part of a group, affiliating with others, experiencing caring and sharing relationships.
    2. Cultivate deep relationships (Ref.  1st Thessalonians 2:8) - Do not take relationships lightly. To survive in a cold and cruel world requires deep relationships. But those relationships do not just happen, they require effort. We have to do more than just reach out to others, we have to share our lives with others as well.  This truth was one of the secrets of Paul's establishment of supportive relationships. "We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us" (1 Thessalonians 2:8). Here was a man that every time he wrote to a church, he would always call by name two, three, or four people that were very close to him. He had developed significant relationships with these people.  Found in these verses are three words - rhyming words - that form the basis for developing relationship which pass the test of time.  Care - "as a nursing mother nurtures her own children" (1 Thessalonians 2:7). Remember people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.  Share - "we were pleased to share with you . . . our own lives" (v. 8). The word picture of "sharing our lives" continues the mothering idea and paints a picture of a mother nursing her young. A mother cannot nurse her children without sharing a part of herself with her child. For us to share with others in deep relationship necessitates that we get up close and personal with another. One cannot share at a distance.  Dear - "because you had become dear to us" (v. 8). Paul loved these people. And when we love others we do not treat them as a means to an end, but rather as individuals of value. To communicate our love with others we must dare to talk about our affections. We must learn the gestures of love - a hug, a handshake, roughhousing, as well as, many acts of kindness. May we never forget that love is something you do, not just something you say.
    3. Commit to authenticity (v. 8) - It is not enough to admit we need each other, or say, "Oh, a few friends would be nice." We must commit ourselves to getting beneath the surface talk and become interested and accountable to each other. Authenticity occurs when the masks come off, conversations get deep, hearts get vulnerable, lives are shared, accountability is invited, and tenderness flows. Believers in the body of Christ become brothers and sisters.  Assimilation is becoming absorbed in the lives of others as an active participant, relating to, sharing with, and caring for others. The apostle Paul describes assimilation in five words, "We imparted our own lives" (1 Thessalonians 2:8). Paul did not erect barriers. He was not aloof. He opened his life to others. Reuben Gornitzka, the founder of the "Church Without Walls" ministry said of the need for assimilation, "We can't simply cheer people on and give them our best wishes. We have to make room for them in our lives."  When we make room for others in our lives the walls of indifference and apathy come down. When we make room for others we discover the best of others and the best in ourselves.

Jesus does not only want to build new relationships but to maintain them by giving us His life. “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). Jesus also made it quite clear that He would never leave us “I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.  Also “For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (cf. Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:5; 1 Chronicles 28:20).

He also knows that there is strength and power in true relationships.  “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken”  (Ecclesiastics 4:12).  “Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight; your enemies shall fall by the sword before you” (Leviticus 26:8).

Relationships are way too important in the grand scheme of things not to be pursued, cherished and maintained.  In all our lives there will come a time that a trial will come and the only way out will be relaying on a friend for we cannot fight the enemy of our souls on our own,  therefore, look for, find, cultivate, and establish as many relationships as possible for your own good and the good of those who depend on you and relay on you.

To help us develop relationships here are Ten Commandments of Human Relations and five strong building blocks to build your relationships on.

  1.  Speak to people. There is nothing as nice as a cheerful word of greeting.
  2. Smile at people. It takes seventy-two muscles to frown, only fourteen to smile.
  3. Call people by name. Music to anyone's ears is the sound of his/her own name.
  4. Be friendly and helpful.
  5. Be cordial. Speak and act as if everything you do is genuinely a pleasure, and if it isn't, learn to make it so.
  6. Be genuinely interested in people. You can like almost everybody if you try.
  7. Be generous with praise, cautious with criticism.
  8. Be considerate with the feelings of others. There are usually three sides to a controversy: yours, the other fellow's, and the right one.
  9. Be alert to serve. What counts most in life is what we do for others.
  10. Add to this a good sense of humor, a big dose of patience, and a dash of humility, and you will be rewarded manifold through life. 

 Building Block 1: Love

Love is the starting point. We must have the genuine interest at heart of the people we relate to, plus express friendship.  Many problems in conflicted relationships involve power struggles, people feeling excluded, and the absent of brotherly affection. These problems are remedied by the expression of both agape and phileo love. 

Paul described both concepts, “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for you own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:2-4).

Building Block 2: Encouragement

A major problem that retards positive relationships is criticism. Research indicates that in good relationships there is a five to one ratio in favor of positive encouragement over negative criticism. Paul emphasized the importance of this next building block: encourage, don’t criticize, condemn, or complain. He wrote, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29; cf. Colossians 4:5, 6). 

Make people feel important. Use their name, be friendly, and smile. Learn to listen and understand their interests and point of view. Talk about what interests them. This will take you far in building positive relationships.

Building Block 3: Respect

If I constantly criticize you, it will eventually descend into contempt – on both our parts. The opposite is to express respect, which is part of the process of building positive relationships. I think Paul had this concept in mind when he wrote, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). 

To me, Paul describes contempt. The opposite is to show respect. Perhaps that is why Paul instructs wives to, “respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). 

Building Block 4: Accept Responsibility

The Bible shows that defensiveness and blaming others for things that go wrong will clog a good relationship. It is the refusal to properly evaluate our own contribution to conflict. 

Again, Paul was right on top of this principle of building relationships. In the context of the Lord’s Supper, he wrote, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28). 

Finger pointing and fault finding only magnify problems. Accepting responsibility does not mean taking all the blame for everything. It means to sit down, and with an open attitude examine the issues. It is to accept personal responsibility for, and work to change, those things that hinder building relationships. 

Building Block 5: Breaking Deadlock

When conflict escalates to a certain level, people stop talking to each other. They quit church, move out of the house, become silently sullen, or hide in their cubby hole in the office – they avoid each other. Have you noticed this tendency?

Bible teaching about building relationships urges people to move from deadlock to dialogue. There is always the potential for more conflict, but good people with good motives need to talk. But, you head first for common ground, not fighting ground. Sometimes, to maintain the relationship, people must agree to disagree about a particular area of disagreement. Learn to work around things you cannot change. 

Paul speaks of this principle of building relationships in his letter to the Philippians, “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed true comrade, I ask you also to help these women” (Philippians 4:2, 3a; cf. Ephesians 4:15, 25). Paul was requesting a mediator to intervene in this troubled relationship, and to begin the process of building positive relationships. The process involves talking and dialogue. 

Building Block 6: Manage Emotions

Bible teaching about building relationships requires that we manage our emotions (cf. Ephesians 4:31, 32; Galatians 5:17-26). I refer you to my studies on anger and worry and managing our thoughts (links) for helpful information on managing emotions.

Basically, managing our emotions is by managing our thinking. But, you can turn to those recommended essays for more detail.

Building Block 7: Prayer

The Bible teaching about building relationships emphasizes prayer. Paul sets the example, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment” (Philippians 1:9). Jesus said to, “pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).  Persevering prayer is powerful, and should take the place of getting even with those we think have wronged us (Romans 12:14; cf. verses 9-21).

With this Bible teaching about building relationships, If you follow it and keep up the good work, and your devotion to learning more about the Lord, Jesus Christ. The best is ahead of you. 

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