The vertical in the midst of the horizontal

The tag of war between the left and the right rages on. Statements and questions such as; “You sound like you are politically right,” “Are you conservative or republican?” and “Do you think people on the political left can form a good government?” are constantly be made and asked. Individuals spend time critically analyzing whether to be on the left or right and when a decisive conclusion cannot be reached, they settle for the middle. Others will take some views held by the right and left wings and form their own opinions without claiming to be on either side. However, no matter how many people seem to do this, the divide between the left and the right keeps on widening.

This is quite disappointing especially when so many efforts are being made to bring people together. With Christmas upon us, people are sharing gifts to one another in expression of love. Children too, strive to be nice as possible to their parents because Santa doesn’t give presents to naughty kids. As everyone tries to be kind and loving this festive season, the desire is that people can come together either as family or mere acquaintances regardless of any political differences. Above this is the overarching desire that everyone in the world should be kind to other people around them. In all honesty, this is desirable.

However, in our efforts to bridge the left and right (horizontal),  we have forgotten that the vertical also exists. This is what is making all the efforts of making ‘peace on Earth’ seem futile.

But what does the vertical have to do with the horizontal? How will having a better understanding of the vertical help someone to be kinder or more loving? Will it make a difference to love when there is a good vertical relationship? Douglas Coupland answered this well in his book ‘life after God.’ In his closing paragraph he says this;

“…here is my secret. I want to tell this to you with an openness of heart. I doubt that I shall ever achieve this openness again, so I pray that you are in a quiet room as you hear these words of mine. My secret is this: that I need God. That I am sick and I can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give because I no longer seem capable of giving. I need God to help me to be kind as I no longer seem capable of kindness on own. I need God to help me love as I seem being beyond able to even love.”

Coupland’s words might seem a little absurd but the point he is making must not be ignored. His point is that there are point of references in life whose description will be devoid of meaning if there is no outside point of reference. As a result of forgetting the vertical, the outside points of reference are done away with. We are left in a world where we fail to even define life’s most basic and yet important questions. For what is to love without a point of reference for love and a common understanding on it? What is morality? What is morality if there is no moral law on which to differentiate between good and bad? Why should a person be kind to another without understanding the extrinsic value that each person is endowed with by God?

Christmas is that time of the year which clearly gives a reminder of some of the outside points of reference in life. Gifts and presents are given out because humanity was once given the greatest gift. The love of God in sending his son Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of love and humanity’s greatest gift (John 3:16). People show love to one another, because love was shown to us first.  For “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). So we love, because God loved us first and using that as a basis, we can love others as well.

I cannot think of a perfect place where the horizontal and the vertical meet besides the cross of Jesus. Perhaps that is why it is called a cross. The horizontal and vertical components bridge to form the cross, with Jesus on it symbolizing that he has bridged the two. He taught us what love (horizontally) ought to look like by giving an example of the vertical. He says, “…As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). By doing so, he not only makes it possible for those on the political right to be in harmony with those on the left, he also made it possible for all people to have access to God (John 3:16). As a result, the vertical relationship is made possible and with it, the horizontal has meaning.

Undoubtedly, being on either the right or the left is important in matters of politics. However, whether a person is politically right or not, there is something that transcends this divide. It is that humans will continue to care for things that matter the most-other people. It is in the human nature to want to love and be loved, to be kind and help those in need. Every 25th of December echoes this; if you want to be kind, to love or help those in need, this is what it should look like.

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