Vertical and Horizontal
November 12, 2020
If someone says, “I love God”, but hates a brother, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God whom we cannot see? I John 4:20 NLT
To uninformed readers of the Bible, reading randomly through it can be very confusing and, for some, even faith destroying. In the Old Testament they see a God who had a “chosen people,” and He gave them leeway, even directions, to hate, kill, and destroy people who were not with them. Then they read in the New Testament that they are expected and commanded to love everyone. What in the world?
The Old Testament is the record of God working in a world that was overcome by sin and evil, far from His plan. He found Abraham, a man who believed when God spoke to him, even though he was never taught or trained to do so. God worked with him and his descendants to bring hope and a Savior to the world. In order for this to happen, they had to separate from the countries and people who were pagan and refused to follow the One God. But all the way through, a Messiah was promised for the whole world, One who would wipe out the Old Testament “eye for an eye” way and write the law of love on our hearts.
That’s why the New Testament is so different. Jesus came and did exactly what was promised. He established a new way. Through His sacrificial death for all people and His powerful resurrection from death to life, He made a way for the whole world to have a relationship with God. John tells it this way: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). His love was directed toward the entire world.
Jesus, through His life and teachings, shared that the common thinking of “God’s people” in the traditional way was over. He made it crystal clear that the relationship with God could no longer be strictly vertical—between me and God. He taught that it was horizontal as well. Your vertical relationship with God is only real and vital if you also have a relationship of love with the world. Loving others in word and deed is a signature witness of our relationship. As John says, if we claim we love God whom we can’t see, but refuse to love a person we can see, we lie to ourselves. It’s a big deal. Love for God AND the world is our signature.
Between now and the end of the year, read the New Testament with a special eye for all the directives to love and be an example of love for everyone.
- Pray: Ask God to help you love, both vertically and horizontally.