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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

We Need Horizontal Relationships

My son is an associate pastor at our church. Recently, while my husband and I were traveling to some special meetings, he ministered a message entitled, “Is God Enough?” By the title, most would think he planned on preaching a message on faith in God— the One who is more than enough!

But to the congregation’s surprise, our 23-year-old addressed something very unselfish, something every generation is dealing with— the need for horizontal relationships.

Statistics are staggering of the number of people who don’t have someone they feel they can confide in. And those surveyed that said they do have a close friend, confessed they downplay real emotions. In other words, few are being authentic with those closest to them, and even fewer have a company of friends.

In a world of social media, loneliness and isolation are ironically a hidden epidemic.

We know God didn’t think it was sufficient for Him to be Adam’s only companion, so in a divine plan, God purposefully created Eve as a helpmate. And as biblical history continues, we see over and over God reinforcing this idea that we need horizontal relationships— not just a single, vertical relationship with God alone.

Face-to-face relationships are so important that God sent Jesus to be like us, among us, as Emmanuel, God with us. And in a prophetic promise of this plan and purpose, He said through the prophet Isaiah:

“I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house.” (Isaiah 42:6-7 NKJV)

It’s the last line that prompts me to think of those who are lonely and feel isolated. We often think of prison as a brick and mortar facility, but prisons come in many forms, and almost all involve isolation.

God gave Jesus to us as a covenant. Did you know this word is used to describe an alliance of friendship? We could say, an alliance of horizontal relationships. Jesus became a walking, tangible, expression of God’s love. And of course, we know the greater purpose of Jesus was His sacrificial death and soon-following resurrection that brought us salvation. But let’s not downplay that of all the ways God could have possibly saved His people, He chose to do it through a face-to-face God-man.

And now, you and I are carriers of Christ in our hearts. His mission didn’t end when He ascended and returned to His Father. His mission amplified through our hands, our feet, our words, our love, our hugs— in the form of horizontal relationships.

I’ve been on both sides— as one struggling to fit in, and as one looking to be a friend. At any given time, we are both in need and one who can meet a need. But the common factor is vulnerability. Will we be authentic when asked how we’re doing by another? Will we lay aside selfishness and look around— being sensitive to those who may be so near, yet so isolated…?

Will we let the light of Jesus open blind eyes? Bring prisoners from the prison of darkness? Offer a smile or a warm word of encouragement? Will we be Jesus in street clothes?

God says to us all:

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 NKJV)

But He also says,

“Discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate them toward acts of compassion, doing beautiful works as expressions of love. This is not the time to pull away and neglect meeting together, as some have formed the habit of doing, because we need each other! In fact, we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate that day dawning.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 TPT)

In other words, God is relational and wants us to be as well. We need each other.

Copyright © Daphne Delay, used with permission.

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