by Tad Lindley
It will be my name on this article, but the ideas are coming from a message preached this morning by Pastor Bradbury combined with the crosshairs analogy made by Kevin Augustine.
The first kind of love is horizontal love. That is love between us and the people around us. Most of us when reading this, think immediately about our family and friends, but you will see as I go on that horizontal love extends further than that. It includes all of the people that we interact with, and even some that we will never meet, but whose actions impact us. Jesus described this type of love in Mark 12:30, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself… This is the second greatest commandment.
This is the love between man and God. It is in fact the greatest commandment. When one of the scribes came and asked Jesus what the greatest commandment is, Jesus’ response was, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord, and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. (Mark 12:29-30, see also Deuteronomy 6:4-5) We are called to love God, and most of us, if we believe in Him, would certainly say we love God, but do we?
God deserves our vertical love
Of course we love God, because he came manifested in flesh and laid down his life for us; there is no greater love than that. Jesus described it like this: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13) The apostle, Paul, described God’s love like this: For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8) Does God deserve our love? Absolutely. Many of us would have died to this life and presently be in hell had it not been for his love, his mercy, and his patience.
But what about people that don’t deserve?
Jesus didn’t take a bullet for you, he took the cross for you. He deserves everything from us. But some of you reading this have had literal bullets fired at you by people. All of us have had verbal bullets fired at us. And all of us can easily point to someone we know and say, “I love Jesus, because he deserves it, but this person, no way. Bro. Lindley if you only knew what they did to me, you’d hate them too!”
No vertical love without horizontal love
Let me share with you the Bible’s response to those of us who feel justified in not loving people unless they treat us the way we think we deserve. If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, 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) It does not matter how much we love God, unless we also love the people around us, he totally rejects our love as false. Ouch. It is a very hard saying since so many of us carry grudges and resentments and prejudice and judgment. I am not denying that some people are hard to love, but unless we learn to love them, we do not love him.
The crosshairs of eternity
For all of us there will come a day when our soul will leave the body it is currently dwelling in. Our body will deflate like a balloon and return to the earth, but our soul will step out into eternity. Almost all people intend at that point to die saved. Just like the scope on my rifle has a horizontal crosshair and a vertical crosshair and if they are in proper alignment, they tell me where my bullet will end up in relation to the target. My love toward God and my love toward people are the crosshairs that dictate my eternal destiny. Yes, I have obeyed Acts 2:38, I‘ve repented, been baptized in Jesus’ name, and received the gift of the Holy Ghost, but unless I learn to love those around me, I will not make the target of eternal salvation. Let us all be praying this week that brotherly love would well up within us and that forgiveness and compassion would override the hurts of the past, so that when we too step out into eternity, we will reach the mark we are shooting for.
Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.