I read an interesting article yesterday by Dan Cruver called “The Cosmic Significance of Adoption: What It Means for Us and for Orphans.” In that article, Cruver spoke about one of the unique contributions of Christianity which is what he called the “vertical to horizontal movement.” By that, Cruver is talking about the fact that the uniqueness of Christianity’s vertical movement is that it is never manking who first responds to God, but rather it is always God who first reaches down to mankind in grace. In the same way, the horizontal movement of Christianity from person to person is predicated by the vertical movement from God to people. In other words, we move horizontally as Christians because God first moved vertically to us in grace.
He highlights three examples highlights from Scripture to illustrate the vertical to horizontal movement. First, we are able to love others because God first loved us (“We love because He first loved us – 1 John 4.19). Second, we are to forgive one another just as God in Christ forgave us (“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” – Ephesians 4.32). Third, we are to accept one another just as Christ accepted us (“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” – Romans 15.7).
Cruver’s point is that Christianity has a unique vertical to horizontal movement and without this movement Christianity ceases to be Christianity. So, Cruver writes, “the question is this, since Christianity has this unique vertical to horizontal movement, how does its vertical to horizontal movement relate to adoption and orphan care?”
In Romans 8, Paul introduced a new concept in his letter to the church in Rome: those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God, have received a spirit of sonship, and now cry “Abba, Father” as children of God (see Romans 8.14-17). In effect, we have been adopted into the family of God and have received “full rights” as children of God (see Galatians 4.5). What Cruver is asking is since we have been adopted by God into His family, how does that impact the way we relate to others? How do we model and live out the grace of God displayed to us in our vertical adoption to those who live horizontally around us?