One could say we were made for relationship. The primary relationship is the vertical one: between us and God. In Genesis 3 we see that this relationship was severed by the wrong choice of a man and a woman. As we read through the Scriptures, we see God’s plan continue to unfold and, when the fullness of time came, Jesus entered our world. God, through Jesus, demonstrated His love for us and made a way to restore that severed relationship. Jesus came and gave His life in order that our relationship with God could be restored. By faith in Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross for our sin and His resurrection from the dead, we can have life and relationship with God. We can have peace with God:
Romans 5:1 Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
We also have relationships on the horizontal level: person to person. These can be challenging and difficult because people hurt us (intentionally and not). In reaction, we can lash out or just hide our feelings deep within. When someone very close to us hurts us, those wounds run especially deep. Many times, these relationships are good and there is much laughter, joy, and encouragement.
Jesus spoke of relationships when He summed up the whole of the Law and Prophets in Matthew 22:34–40: love God with everything you are and love your neighbor (other people) as yourself. It all comes down to relationships, both the vertical and the horizontal. A way we show our love for God is loving people.
What are your and my relationships characterized by? Are they marked by love, encouraging words, kindness, compassion, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness? One intriguing caveat is that handling ourselves well in horizontal relationships is dependent on our vertical relationship with God! One relationship is dependent on the other.
Maybe your relationship with your spouse, child, friend, neighbor, coworker, or sibling isn’t what it should be. I would encourage you to move toward that person, approaching him or her graciously. Remember that we all have issues; instead of thinking “you’re the problem,” have the perspective that “I’m just like you.”
In Matthew 11:28–30, Jesus describes himself as gentle and humble in heart, which are two character qualities we also need in order to navigate relationships well! If we choose to be gentle and humble, forgiveness should flow. I recently read a two-part definition of forgiveness:
- Forgiveness cancels the debt.
- When we forgive, we absorb the cost.
Forgiveness costs us deeply. Forgiveness cost God the Father the life of His Son, Jesus. I would challenge you to be the one who pushes the “reset” button in your relationships, meaning that you no longer respond in a natural way but in one that’s supernatural! Responding in a supernatural way reflects the abundance of a healthy vertical relationship with God. It’s the same way Jesus handled himself: in gentleness, humbleness, and forgiveness.
One final thought comes from 1 Peter 2:23:
1 Peter 2:23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting himself to Him who judges righteously.
Jesus handled himself with the utmost integrity in a situation where things were horrendous. How did He accomplish this? It had to do with His vertical relationship with His Father. He kept entrusting himself to the One who judges righteously!
May we seek to live out our horizontal relationships from the abundance of our vertical relationship!
Gary Webb is the Adult Ministries Pastor. He and his wife, Beth, were transferred down to Columbus from Toledo in 1988 while he worked for UPS. Gary worked as an engineer for over 12 years for UPS and Children’s Hospital. During those years the Webbs became involved at Grace. He joined the pastoral staff in 2000. Gary studied engineering (University of Toledo) and theology (Grace Seminary). Gary enjoys coaching, running, biking, swimming and hiking. Gary and Beth have three adult children and three grandchildren.