The Value of Vertical Comparisons

The Value of Vertical Comparisons

Warren E. Berkley

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Preparing to teach a Bible class in the book of Mark, I found this paragraph in the Hendricksen/Kistemaker commentary on Mark:

In their heart of hearts Christ’s enemies must have realized that Jesus was infinitely better than they were. His humility (Luke 22:27) contrasted sharply with their pomposity (Matt. 23:5–7); his sincerity (John 8:46), with their hypocrisy (Mark 7:6); his sympathy (Mark 6:34), with their cruelty (Matt. 23:14). To a considerable extent their “religion” was activity in the interest of self (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16); his ministry was a sacrifice in the interest of others (Mark 10:45) and to the glory of the Father (John 17:1, 4). Did some of these enemies sense that he knew their real character, that he “had their number?”  {Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953-2001). Vol. 10: Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark. New Testament Commentary (271). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.}

This caught my attention as we navigated Mark 7, where the scribes and Pharisees condemned Jesus because His disciples did not follow their rituals (different from God’s rules). In this connection I said to the class – Comparisons that are horizontal have no real spiritual value . . . only comparisons that are vertical have value.

The fact that others are not doing what we do is not grounds for condemnation, and if such condemnation is issued – it reveals arrogance. It is a horizontal comparison.

What is needed is vertical comparisons, meaning – we compare ourselves and others with the highest standard, which is God’s Word (and the embodiment of His Word in the life of Christ). What I need to know is, how do I compare to God’s standard. What my friends and neighbors need to know is, how they compare to God’s standard. Only vertical comparisons have value.

Back to the above quote – in comparison to Christ, His enemies actual condition was dramatically manifest. He was good, they were not. He spoke the truth, they did not. He was sinless, they were sinful. He obeyed God and respected His Word, the enemies of Christ did not.

Let us be His friends, as determined by the vertical comparison.

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