I want to write a follow-up to the post I wrote last week on what I believe to be the source and solution of the problems in the church. I want to say again how much I appreciate everyone who participated in the discussion and particularly the grace with which you did.
In the discussion that followed the post, we began to look at what is involved in worship and whether or not the “first love” of the church is actually love for Jesus. Some very good ideas and arguments were presented from a variety of viewpoints.
I think we can all agree that love for God and love for the brethren are inseparably linked. I think the question that remains is, are they one and the same?
While the two are closely linked, I believe there is a distinction between loving God and loving people. I listed several reasons why I believe this in one of my comments, let me briefly reiterate some of those reasons now.
1. It is possible for unbelievers to have a degree of love for one another, but I believe that only believers can love one another in the way that God has prescribed. Thus, a relationship with God is a pre-requisite for loving the brethren.
2. When asked about the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:35-39), Jesus first named loving God, then listed loving the brethren. He even made a distinction between the two, calling the one the “first and great commandment” and the other “the second”.
3. In John 15, Jesus spoke of His disciples loving Him first, then gave the commandment to love each other.
4. In I John 1, John begins the epistle (which many think was written to the Ephesian church) by describing his close relationship with Christ, then expressing his desire to fellowship with others based upon that relationship.
Now having given those reasons, let me say that our love for Christ will not be fulfilled until we love the brethren. I would never want to discount our love for one another. Those who have read my series of posts on I John from last year will know the value that I place upon koinonia and agape. But love begins with our love for Christ.
It is only when I am walking in love with Christ that I will be able to love the brethren in the way that God wants me to love. I think we could describe this as vertical love/fellowship and horizontal love/fellowship. The vertical, of course, is our relationship with Christ while the horizontal is our relationship with others.
We could illustrate this concept by comparing it to the crosshairs of a rifle scope. Ideally, when aiming a scope, the vertical crosshairs need to be straight up and down which by default causes the horizontal crosshairs to be properly aligned. When the crosshairs are properly lined up, the target will be hit. I learned this lesson the hard way last deer season when I missed a nice buck trying to shoot it from a cock-eyed angle.
When my love for Christ (vertical) is properly aligned, it will cause my love for the brethren (horizontal) to be properly aligned as well. In this way, they are inseparably linked, yet the focus is on Christ. When both are properly aligned, we will hit the target of glorifying Christ in the church.