According to Jesus, the entire Old Testament Law and the Prophets can be boiled down to two commandments; “Love God“, and “Love others“. The first is our personal, vertical relationship with God. The second is our interpersonal, horizontal relationship with people.
These two love-actions are not separate from each other – they are intrinsically linked. That’s why Jesus says; “the second (command) is like (the first)” (Matthew 22:39). Loving God and loving others go together. If we say we love God, but do not love one another, we are lying to ourselves and do not know the truth of God’s love.
To me, the shape of the cross is a reminder of the intersection of vertical spirituality (love for God) and horizontal (love for others). We experience and take part in God’s love when we learn to stretch out our arms and embrace the other, when we lay ourselves down to lift others up, when we unclench our fists and forgive those who have hurt us.
We are called to a cross-shaped love in our relationships with one another. That is the main reason I believe churches need to prioritise face-to-face, side-by-side, heart-to-heart one-anothering in our gatherings. Creating spaces for God’s people to encourage, confess, teach, minister and pray for one another is a joy-filled experience which blows me away every time I encounter it.
Love God. Love others. Everything we do as “church” should be equipping each other to fulfil these two commands. The rest is just religion.