Continued from here.
A wise man pointed out that Christianity cannot be practiced in isolation. In other words, Christianity isn’t taking place if there is no investment in other people. Tony Evans puts it this way: Christians have a vertical relationship with God and a horizontal relationship with others. Without the horizontal beam, there is no cross. That’s the basis of the title of his book, Horizontal Jesus. The book is all about how to live your faith as you invest in other people.
Far too many people are selfish Christians. They want just enough of Jesus to avoid going to hell, which focuses only on their own needs. What about the other people who also need to avoid going to hell? Your reaction is likely like mine – I don’t want to be an offensive “Bible thumper” who annoys people by trying to “save” them.
However, Jesus and his disciples changed the world without thumping anyone with a Bible. They did it through LOVE! And love is expressed by investing in other people. In fact, if you aren’t investing in other people, you are not loving them, and God is love. Jesus commanded us to love one another as he loved us. The Bible even tells us that if we aren’t loving one another, then we don’t know God.
If we are living our faith, then Christians should be known as the most loving people in existence. We should be the people who notice someone’s pain first and reach out in love. We should be the ones who are the most willing to slow down to 3 MPH and listen to whatever is burdening someone’s heart. If we were to do this – to live as Jesus did – we would change the world just as surely as the disciples did in the First Century. People were – and still are – drawn to God because of His love, and they should be seeing this love through us.
[Graphic: Cover of Horizontal Jesus. Courtesy Amazon. ]
I finished reading Daniel B. Clendenin’s Eastern Orthodox Theology: A Contemporary Reader last week and feel like I now have a much better understanding of Eastern Orthodox theology. One notable difference from Protestantism that I have pondering is the heavy emphasis of the role of the universal Church as THE Body of Christ. While I know that Christians collectively make up the Body of Christ, I have been guilty of viewing Christianity as my relationship with God (vertical relationship) without much emphasis on my relationship with others (horizontal relationship). Tony Evans wrote an excellent book on the horizontal relationship of Christians with other people entitled Horizontal Jesus: How Our Relationships with Others Affect Our Experience with God, which taught me a lot about the “one anothers.”
Until the last few years, I believed I could live as an effective Christian alone in a cabin off the beaten path – just God and me. However, I have grown to realize that I cannot be an effective Christian if I am not interacting with other people. After all, the cross is both vertical AND horizontal. If all that mattered was God’s relationship with each individual with no connectivity among one another, then Jesus could have stayed in heaven and not have bothered to come to earth. After all, his relationship with God was just fine. He inconvenienced himself (to put it mildly) to connect horizontally with people, and Christians are supposed to follow his example, so Christianity involves interacting with other people … and that’s a big part of what makes the faith so challenging!
I have heard Joyce Meyer share the same story multiple times, and it never fails to elicit a chuckle out of me because I so deeply relate. She shared that she would be doing such a great job at being a Christian when she woke up – loving, thankful, etc. – until she had her first interaction with another person. Then, it all went downhill. The people are the hard part!
In this blog series, I will be focusing on some of the lessons I have learned – and continue to learn – about applying the Christian faith as we interact with the flawed people around us.
To be continued…
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling with a heart on her head. Courtesy Bitmoji.]