What will happen if you take the two beams of the symbol of the Christian cross apart and use them separately? What is the meaning of two separate beams or lines?
If, for a moment, we take the symbol of the cross to represent on the one hand our relationship with God (the vertical line), and on the other hand our relationship with our neighbour (the horizontal line), why do we so easily take them apart?
This tendency to separate our relationship with God from our relationship with our neighbour has a long history. Isaiah 58 is a good example of how the people of Israel thought they could worship God and at the same time practice injustice – and then thought that God would be happy with how solemnly they worshipped Him.
In no uncertain terms the prophet proclaimed that their “worship” was in vain. In reality their “devotion to God”, while they disregard their responsibilities to people in need and to one another, was only a show. They were only making a great public display of their fasting. It was not really about their relationship with the God of Israel.
The devotion God wants from his people includes practicing justice in their social relationships. True devotion cannot disregard the needs of others. “People, individually and corporately, cannot have a full relationship with God without a just relationship with each other” (Amy Oden).
At the same time Isaiah 58 reminds us that practicing justice in our social relationships does not replace our devotion to God. The chapter closes with a passionate plea to honour God’s Sabbath.
To think about or discuss: Why is it so difficult to keep our relationship with God and our relationship with our neighbour together? What is the effect of this in the context of the HIV pandemic?