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  • Tiffany Tolman

Consider the Cross: Loving God and Loving Our Neighbor



Confession time: I’ve often said I would be a better disciple of Christ if I inhabited a deserted island or lived before the invention of cars.

 

First, if all I had to do to gain exaltation was study the scriptures, pray a lot, and deepen my relationship with the Savior, I would be home free. No dealing with messy relationships with others to muddy the waters. And barring that unlikely scenario where I didn’t have to interact, I would have loved to live before we got all crazy driving our cars. I suspect I would benefit from putting President Nelson’s “Think Celestial” reminder on my rearview mirror to patiently deal with my fellow drivers. So how to navigate a world where I want to be a better disciple of Christ and still deal with people?

 

Consider the Cross

 

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ, we don’t often focus on the cross in our worship of Jesus Christ. But in 3 Nephi 27:13–15, the Savior Himself reminds us of the importance of the cross in Him mission. He said:


"… this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me. And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works."


In other words, He was lifted up on the cross that He might lift us up to be able to stand before the Father.

 

The Vertical and Horizontal Beams of the Cross

 

For a moment, then, I would like to explore the elements of the cross and what it might have to do with the two great commands—to love God and love our neighbor.

 

First, the command to love God is a vertical relationship—the post of the cross. As the base, the Savior always put His relationship with the Father first. He declared, “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things … for I do always those things that please him (John 8:28–29). For us, that looks like yielding to the Father first, keeping His commandments, following the words of His chosen prophets and apostles, studying His words, and deepening our relationship with Him through covenants, repentance, and reliance on the power of the Savior’s Atonement. That is always our highest priority.


But the other part of the command is important as well. The cross bar on the cross represents our horizontal relationship with others. Without this crucial element, the cross doesn’t exist. While the Savior always put the Father first, He did so by loving and serving others. In His efforts, He never compromised His vertical relationship with His Father; rather, He lived His relationship with His Father through His relationships with others. He healed, blessed, taught, loved, and led others to point them to the Father. Likewise, our charge is to heal, bless, teach, love, and lead others to the Father. That is the best way for us to keep the horizontal commandment.


James may have had the same idea in mind when he said, “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James, 2:15–17). In other words, faith is that vertical relationship with God. But it doesn’t matter if we have that vertical post—faith in God—if we don’t add the horizontal post—our good works in our relationships with others.

 

It appears that the best way for us to be raised up to stand confidently before the Father at the end of this mortal experience is to strengthen both the vertical relationship—Love God—and the horizontal relationships—Love our Neighbors.

 

And the interesting thing about these two commandments is that as we prioritize our love for God, learning of Him, covenanting with Him, and yielding to Him, our love for our neighbor becomes easier because we see others as God sees and loves them.

 

Conclusion

 

Unfortunately, my ideas of living alone or before cars is not realistic. In fact, living—and even driving—among others is actually the key to my discipleship. It is in these messy relationships with others that I can put my faith and love for God into practice. As I love God first and then love others, I become more like my Savior and allow Him to lift me up so I can stand with confidence before God at the last day.

 

Questions to Consider

 

Here are some questions we can consider as we evaluate how we are doing on our vertical and horizontal relationships with God and others.


Love God

·       Do I offer meaningful personal prayers daily?

·       Do I study the scriptures with a desire to know and love God?

·       Do I attend and contribute to my church meetings?

·       Do I make and keep sacred covenants with God to deepen my relationship with Him?

·       Do I hold a current temple recommend or am I working toward qualifying for one? Do I attend the temple frequently?

·       Do I repent daily?

·       Am I doing things that deepen my conversion to Jesus Christ?

 

Love Others

·       How are my relationships with family members?

·       How do I do with my ministering assignments?

·       How do I interact with neighbors, especially those of other faiths?

·       How is my driving? (you know that one is for me :)

·       How generous am I with my time and means to lift others?

·       Do I teach and testify of Christ willingly?


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