FROM THE VERTICAL TO THE HORIZONTAL
Empowered to Relate to People God’s Way
by Rose Noland©
FIRST THINGS FIRST
…There’s a lot in this book about developing basic people skills. However, as important as they are in relating to people, they are not enough. We need God’s wisdom, power, strength, grace, and love to relate to others in the way God asks. Let’s get real. Many, if not most, people are hard to deal with. We are all selfish, born with that inherited sinful nature from Adam and Eve. The only way we can have meaningful relationships with others and to fulfill the second greatest commandment of loving others is to be inextricably connected to our Lord. We must have a love relationship with Him before we can truly love others with a godly love. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying our relationship with God has to be perfect before we start fulfilling the second commandment. What I mean is that we must first have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus. He is the One who loves other people through us. It is supernatural. It is His divine power that enables us to love the unlovely. It is only through His divine power that we can love as He loves. This truth is the premise of this whole book, so you will see it frequently throughout these chapters, so let me take a bit of time to explain….
At the moment we accept Jesus as our Savior, He gives us a new godly nature (2 Cor 5:17). That new nature is what gives us the capability of living a godly life, of loving God and others (see 2 Pet 1:3-4). Once saved, we have the ability to relate to others as Jesus did. This is an exciting and vital truth to understand. As the divine nature within us grows through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, so will our knowledge of how to relate to others. We already have everything we need to relate to God and others at the time of our rebirth in the proper way. Therefore, it is a matter of learning how to appropriate it, to make it real in our everyday lives. There is no other way to love as God commands (first and second greatest commandments)…. We need Jesus not only to save us from hell, but to live a holy life. God is not asking us to follow His commands in our own strength, but in His strength. He is asking us to let Him do it through us: from the vertical to the horizontal.
In fact, we already have a picture of this concept beautifully illustrated in the cross: the vertical beam represents our relationship with God; the horizontal beam represents our relationships with people. This cross analogy gives us four important truths in regard to relationships:
- Christ’s redemptive work on the cross is what makes it possible to have a relationship with God and godly relationships with people.
- When our vertical bond is firm and secure, our horizontal interactions also have stability. Without the vertical beam of the cross securely positioned in the ground, the horizontal beam has nowhere to go—except fall to the ground. Therefore, right relationships with others can only happen when we are in a right relationship with God. If we’re off in our relationship with God, our interactions with people will be affected, and vice versa. The closer we are to God the better able we will be to relate to others.
- We are to remain at the foot of the cross indicating the humility we are to have before our God and others (Rom 12:3; Phil 2:3-4).
- The cross represents a picture of what we should do—die to self (Rom 12:1-2; Col 3:1-3). Loving and relating properly with God and others will sometime require a sacrifice of our wants and needs. Although this is difficult, the rewards far outweigh the cost. Think of it this way: it is our new Christ-like nature that is (or should be) doing the relating. Our sinful nature cannot relate to God or others rightly (God’s way). We need God’s power and wisdom. And the only way to get that is by surrendering ourselves to God.
FORGIVING EACH OTHER
Forgiveness, what a critical topic! It is the crux of the matter—literally. Without forgiveness there is no relationship possible with God and no truly close relationships with people. Many are not even aware they are harboring unforgiveness in their hearts, and those that do just can’t seem to forgive the wrongs done against them. Unforgiveness has permeated our society. Why? Because forgiving is hard to do. Therefore, it’s a message that needs to be repeated even though many authors have thoroughly written on this subject. We always have to deal with offenses in this fallen world. If this is an area in which you have already had significant victory, then view this chapter as a good review. If not, maybe it will encourage you to apply these freeing truths to your life. Or perhaps this will indeed be a fresh look for you at what forgiveness God’s way looks like. Personally, I need reminding of these truths for I am always falling short in some way. They are principles we will use day in and day out—that is, until we’re in heaven where no more wrongs will be committed against us or by us.
REASONS TO FORGIVE
Aside from being so hard, there are several reasons we don’t forgive. For one, there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what forgiveness is and isn’t. Secondly, many people think it’s not possible to forgive certain atrocities, nor are they expected to do so. In a lot of cases though, people are simply unwilling. Providentially, there are a lot of good reasons to forgive.
- God commands it.
Not forgiving someone is a sin. This is the first thing we must understand and accept. God is God. What He says goes. If for no other reason, we should forgive because our obedience is His just due.
- Unforgiveness destroys relational intimacy with God.
Since unforgiveness is a sin, it breaks our fellowship with God. This is the biggest incentive I have to obey God in this area. I have experienced the sweetness of His presence and don’t want anything to stop or prevent that.
- Unforgiveness destroys relational intimacy with others.
When we love someone, we want to be in harmony with them. When a wrong (big or little) is done by either party, it immediately places a strain on the relationship. There is a sense of uneasiness, a lack of peace and rest. When Ed and I were at odds with each other I was miserable until the matter was addressed….
- Unforgiveness prevents relational intimacy.
Holding something against someone hardens our hearts….
- Unforgiveness leads to resentment and bitterness.
This is a biggie! It is a proven fact that bitterness causes emotional and physical health problems. Unforgiving people don’t realize that it doesn’t accomplish what they want—to payback or inflict pain on their offender. It only continues to cause them more pain, as well as those around them.
- Unforgiveness is a stumbling block to further spiritual growth….
On the positive side:
- Forgiveness restores peace and joy in our hearts.
- Forgiveness brings healing into the life of the offended and possibly the offender….
- Forgiveness increases our fellowship with Christ….
- Forgiveness brings great glory to God and furthers His Kingdom.
Forgiving the unforgivable demonstrates the power and love of Christ. Only a very hard heart is not affected by this kind of forgiveness. It could lead someone to Christ in salvation or a backslidden Christian to return to living rightly. It is also a great encouragement and model to all believers.
So when you find yourself in a place where you just can’t seem to forgive, then turn the word forgive around: give for Jesus’ sake.
- Forgiveness frees us from bondage so we can live the abundant life.
Forgiveness releases us from negative emotions that control our lives. Subsequently, we’ll be able to live with increased peace, joy, and fulfillment.
I tried it my way and I was miserable. As I learned how to forgive, what freedom and peace it brought to my soul! Harboring unforgiveness just isn’t worth it!
…HOW TO FORGIVE
We’ve looked so far at the reasons we should forgive and some of the essential truths surrounding it. Now we move on to the manner. First, consider that “forgiveness is not a method to be learned as much as a truth to be lived.”
From the Vertical to the Horizontal
The only way we can forgive is because God first forgave us. If you have not accepted the forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ, you cannot forgive in the manner God desires. You cannot give what you do not have. True forgiveness can only come at the foot of the cross. You must put the old nature where it belongs—on the cross crucified with Christ. Your new self, divinely empowered, is the one who is able to forgive—even the “unforgivable.”
Think this through with me. The old sin nature has been made ineffective at your rebirth (remember our discussion in chapter one). Picture that sin nature as dead (Rom 6:11). A dead man cannot retaliate, nor can he forgive. But your new self is like Christ who didn’t retaliate. Instead, He entrusted Himself to the Father and forgave. Therefore, you can forgive like Jesus through the power of the Father. Also consider that a dead man cannot hold on to anything, including unforgiveness, resentment, and bitterness. Neither can the divine nature within you hold onto these sinful attitudes because it goes against its nature. You choose whether you will live like a dead person or like Christ.
Get the Right View about Offenses….
Don’t Assume the Worst….
Remember and Apply the Essential Truths about Forgiveness
Knowing the truths mentioned above is only the first step. They are not beneficial unless you apply them….
Copyright © 2014 Rose Noland/He’s So Worth It Ministries All Rights Reserved