Vertical and Horizontal Dimensions of Faith

 As the cross has two dimensions, there are two dimensions to our Christian life.’

 Our Vertical Relationship is our direct love for God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, described in over 200 passages in the New Testament. They include: worship, general prayers, praise and adoration, thanksgivings, intercessions, petitions and supplications.

Our Horizontal relationship is our indirect love for God, expressed by our actions and attitudes of agape love for others.

  • These two dimensions equally express our love for God and are mutually inclusive.
  • We may agree that in the church, our vertical love for God has trumped and even obscured our horizontal love for God.
  • John writes, “…whoever does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (I John 4:20).
  • Paul declares, “May you live in harmony with each other as is fitting for followers of Jesus Christ. Then you all can join together with one voice to give praise and glory to God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Romans 15: 5, 6 NLT)
  • We may call this agape love for one another in the family of god, “brotherly love.”

Our Horizontal relationship of brotherly love comes from Jesus’ new command for a new covenant, “Love one another, as I have loved you, by this everyone will acknowledge you as my followers.” (John 13:34).

  • For emphasis, he repeats it five times (See also John 15: 12, 15).
  • Jesus new command is repeated in Paul’s letters 12 times; in Peter’s 6 times; in John’s 14 times and twice in Hebrews—a total of 31 passages.
  • Jesus new command for his church family to practice agape is beautifully defined by Paul in his ode to our horizontal brotherly love “Agape suffers long and is kind; agape envies not; agape flaunts not itself and is not puffed up, does not behave itself improperly, seeks not its own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.”

His new command is not to be confused with the old command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus firmly endorsed that old covenant command given through Moses in Matthew and Luke.

The necessity of giving our Horizontal Relationships priority is seen in Paul’s passage. “Owe no man anything. Your only obligation is to love one another. Whoever does this fulfills the Law. (Romans 13: 8 GNB).

  • The apostles taught those first believers Jesus new order for a new order, and they lived it: “They spent their time learning from the apostles how to be like family to each other. …they shared their belongings…they continued together in one accord. (Acts 2: 42, 43, 46)
  • Jesus told them the result of this camaraderie would be that outsiders will come to believe when they see God’s agape love demonstrated among Christians. (See John 13:35; John 17: 21-23).
  • This strategy, untried for centuries, worked perfectly. They modeled Christ’s agape and the result? The whole city was favorable towards them, and each day God added to their number. (Acts 2: 46)

This obedience of the church fulfilled Christ’s new command but also fulfilled his intercession for His church found in John 17: 21-23, “Father may they be one as we are one, that the world may believe.”

  • For emphasis, he repeats it—again five times.
  • It is our unity and our love for one another, more than any other Christian practice or trait, that authenticates our witness to the world.

In over 200 passages, the apostles offered concrete ways as to how we should obey Jesus agape love command among our church families. These will be found in our next post.

Father, please do it againWe hope you will join the conversation by making a comment below.

 

2 thoughts on “Vertical and Horizontal Dimensions of Faith

  1. Just did a seven part series with love as the topic. Mostly the horizontal aspect, though. Anyway…I see that if we have love as the nucleus, whatever we do or say should revolve around it.

    Like

    • John the Apostle’s disciples were a bit put out with him according to an early church Father. “Master, why do you keep teaching us over and over to “love one another? Isn’t there more to it?” John answered, Because when you begin practicing love for each other, all other things will follow.”

      Liked by 1 person

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