“When I have learned to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.” – C.S. Lewis.
Many people seem to think of Christianity solely as their own personal relationship with God. That personal relationship with God is essential in true Christianity, but it is also not the whole story. Our goal in life should be knowing Christ above everything and from there letting Jesus affect our relationships. Basically, we should work on our vertical relationship and then let the love of that relationship influence the horizontal relationships we have with those around us.
Jesus told us that the Great Commandment is that we love God. “…‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38) The vertical aspect is indispensable to our faith. We must be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. Knowing and loving Him is the primary goal. But Jesus also said “ a second is equally important”:“love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) Here He reminds us that our faith is not only about our vertical relationship with God, but also very much about our horizontal relationships with others.
As we read the Bible we see God reinforcing this idea that we need horizontal relationships. Face-to-face relationships are so important that God sent Jesus to be like us, among us, as Emmanuel, God with us. And in a prophetic promise of this plan and purpose, He said through the prophet Isaiah: “I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness. I will take you by the hand and guard you, and I will give you to my people, Israel, as a symbol of my covenant with them. And you will be a light to guide the nations. You will open the eyes of the blind. You will free the captives from prison, releasing those who sit in dark dungeons.” (Isaiah 42:6-7)
Christians need to focus on both the vertical and the horizontal if we are to become what God intended us to be. Statistics are staggering of the number of people who don’t have someone they feel they can confide in. In other words, they don’t believe they have people they can be authentic with.
Christianity is very much about loving God — but it is also very much about loving His people. Be a blessing to somebody this week.
- Is everything in my horizontal life the overflow of a vibrant vertical love relationship with Jesus?
- What would my life and ministry look like if I focused on my vertical relationship first and then learned to adapt that relationship to my horizontal relationships?