Going Vertical and Horizontal - James 2:1-17 - Dan McMullen September 9, 2018
“Faith, all by itself and without works, is dead.” James 2:17
- Very famous, and important verse
- And a continuation of what James was teaching earlier, when he said, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
How are we to tell if our faith is “dead”? I believe we look at our faith both ‘vertically’ towards the Living God of Israel, and ‘horizontally’ towards those around you.
- If you have a deep personal faith between you and God (vertical), but without the same focus on the practical day-to-day love of others around you (horizontal), then, according to Jesus’ brother James, your faith may indeed be “dead”.
Brandon Hatmaker, in a book called Barefoot Church, reminds us that when we go only north and south, we leave a terrible taste in the world’s mouth. Here are a few Biblical examples of how we are supposed to move not just vertically, but also horizontally:
- The first four commandments are about us and God (vertical), and the last six are about us and others around us (horizontal)
- The greatest commandment given by Jesus was to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength (vertical), and love neighbor as much as we love ourselves (horizontal)
- Jesus taught that before you take communion (vertical), if you have someone who has something against you, go fix the problem first (horizontal)
- Paul taught that husbands should not even pray to God (vertical) if they have mistreated their wives (horizontal)
- 1 John 4:20-21 says, “anyone who loves God (vertical) must also love their brother and sister” (horizontal)
- Jesus taught that if you don’t forgive others (horizontal), God won’t forgive you (vertical)
- Jesus went even further, showing that the way we treat others (horizontal) is exactly how we are treating Him (vertical), see Mathew 25:45
- And in Mark 10:14, Jesus confronted “dead” faith when his friends didn’t want people bringing their children to Jesus: “When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, ‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.”
“Dead” faith, i.e. vertical religion, that doesn’t lead to action, Jesus had very little time for that – he knows it won’t help solidify the change he is bringing.
- He knows that church attendance alone, if left unchecked and without real involvement with God’s people, will turn us into Pharisees
God designed for Himself a Church – a people not a building, a movement not a program, a vertical and horizontal family not a religious structure – and the Church has been most Christ-like when it remembers this (thinking of the history of schools and hospitals, local and international missions).
Let’s start moving vertically and horizontally! Let’s start having a faith that is truly alive!
"Surprise the World" Sermon Series Lent 2018