Read Mark 12:28-34

I am more persuaded every day, as I examine my own relationships and as I observe others in theirs, that relationships are first fixed vertically before they are ever fixed horizontally. Paul captures this dynamic in surprising words in Galatians 5. “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (v. 14). Now think this through with me. If you had just written, “The entire law of God is summarized by one command,” what would you have written next? Well, I would have written, “Love God above all else.” That seems right. Is it not the greatest of all of God’s commands (Mark 12:28-30)? Is it not the command that must always be first and foremost in our hearts? It seems that good theology would require that this is the “one word” of which Paul is speaking. But that’s not what Paul writes. He says, the entire law is fulfilled by one word, and then he says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” What? How does that fulfill all that God has called us to as his children?

Paul is on to something very important here. He knows two things. First, he knows that only people who love God above all else will ever love their neighbors as themselves. It is only when God is in his rightful place in my heart that you will be in the appropriate place in my life. This is because, if God is not in his rightful place, guess who I insert in that place? The answer is easy: myself. In my marriage, I have had to make this confession – my problem isn’t first that I have failed to love Luella in the way that I should. No, my deeper problem is that I have not loved God as I should, and because I haven’t, I put myself in his position. I make it all about me and therefore do not love Luella in the way that I should.

Paul knows a second thing: that one of the ways our lack of love for God is revealed is by the lack of active love that exists in our relationships. John says it this way: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (I John 4:20). Love for others really begins, continues and is daily motivated by love for God. When his purposes are more important that your desires, when his glory is more valuable to you than your temporary moments of glory, and when his agenda activates you more than your plan for you, you will be freed from your bondage to self-love and be freed to love others. It really is true. Our relationships need more than horizontal fixing. They need vertical rescue, and for that there is ever-sufficient grace of a willing and patient Savior.


~ “New Morning Mercies” August 9th by Paul David Tripp