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The Christian Life Together Graph

August 20, 2013

If we’re honest with ourselves, we tend to view our Christian life almost exclusively in terms of our relationship to God apart from our relationships with others, particularly the church.  We think only of the vertical relationship dynamic between God and me, but not in terms of the horizontal dynamic of how the Gospel changes my relationships with others and calls me to live in community.  It happens innocently enough.  After all, that vertical relationship is primary…but it’s not solitary.  The Gospel announces victory over sin that drives us toward selfish separation and alienation from God and others and we are saved into the community of God’s redeemed people.  Together, as a community of the redeemed, we were meant to live, speak, and minister the Gospel to each other in order to make the good news of Jesus Christ visible to the world.  Living by faith in Christ means living the Christian life, not in isolation, but in community.

This becomes very apparent in the book of Ephesians.  Chapter 1 through 2:10 have a vertical focus.  It speaks of all God has done to save us and reconcile us to himself.  But the vertical dynamic of the Gospel is meant to flow out from us horizontally.  In Ephesians 2:11 and following, it speaks of the horizontal implications the Gospel has on every sphere of life, especially our relationships with others.  So in my sermon on Ephesians 2:11-13, I presented this graph to help us see how we were meant to live by faith in Christ in community under God.

Christian Life Together Graph

Sin, represented by the downward diagonal line, does not just lead us away from God into godlessness, but away from others as well.  When in sin, we isolate ourselves.  We hide from one another.  We build walls of separation and alienate others.  Hopefully you can see that represented clearly in quadrant III.

Now, we often think of the Christian life in terms of quadrant two: Me and Jesus, but we actually grow in maturity and faith in community, in Christian Life Together (quadrant I).  Me and Jesus is fine if you are on a spiritual retreat somewhere, but God didn’t create us in a vacuum.  If we are using spirituality to justify us isolating ourselves from others, we’re not actually living by faith as God has intended.  We cannot separate the reconciling power of the Gospel in our relationship with God from our relationships with others.  This is why faith is indicated by the upward diagonal line leading toward God and community.

If we try to separate the vertical from the horizontal, we often fall into quadrant IV, Relationship Identity.  This category is any attempt to seek community or identity in relationships whether that be with a spouse or significant other, an organization, group, or subculture apart from God.  Just like with Me and Jesus, the further you get away from God’s intention for the Christian life, the more sinful it becomes.  The Gospel destroys sins effects of separation and alienation and by faith we are led into God-glorifying, others-loving life together.  I’d encourage you to spend some time meditating on Ephesians, particularly 2:11-22.  Listen to the sermons.  I pray that in faith we would turn from our sin of separation and alienation and seek communion with God and his people in Christ.

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