Vertical and Horizontal
Reading: James 3:8-18.
"Love your neighbour as yourself" (Mt 22:39)
A son was dragging his father to an old age home. When they reached a bridge the father started crying uncontrollably. When the son asked why, the father answered, "Several years back I dragged my father exactly like this over this bridge!" Ours is an inconsiderate society.
Arguments and fights have become the birthright of Christians. We are not concerned about the health of our brothers and sisters, the problems of our colleagues, the financial needs of God's servants and the needy. We justify ourselves saying, "I am alright with God."
When the self-righteous lawyer asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment in the Law, Jesus replied, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heartůsoulůmind." As far as the questioner was concerned the answer was complete. Not so with Jesus. He went on to say, "And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Mt 22:35-39). The religious Pharisees of that day forgot their duty to man in their zeal to fulfil their duty to God. Walking in love with one another is the other side of offering sacrifices to God (Eph 4:3-12).
Vertical relationship with God is not acceptable if the horizontal relationship with people is not alright. It is contradictory for a worshipping tongue to go wrecking someone with malicious words (Js 3:9). "He who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?" John restates the answer Jesus gave the lawyer, "He who loves God must love his brother also" (1 Jn 4:20,21).
Here lies the reason why Jesus insisted on "first" reconciling with an offended brother before offering gifts to God (Mt 5:23,24). Reconciliation involves humility and self-denial. It is difficult. America's great revivalist Charles Finney (1792-1875) always emphasized reconciliation with man.
Only a very few of his converts went astray. One more hour of praise can become an easy substitute for going the second mile. But such worship is void of fragrance. God loathes it. Respect for man is the other side of fear of God (Lk 18:2,4). Think of a coin without imprint on any one side!
Gospel is the Message of the Cross. The vertical staff of the Cross speaks
of man's relationship with God, and the horizontal that with fellowmen.
Have we experienced the full blessing of the Cross?
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