Being a Good Neighbor

The medical community coined some wise words for doctors to live by: "First, do no harm." That should apply to everyone, especially those who claim to be followers of Christ Jesus and teachers of the Bible. Members of self proclaimed "Christian" organizations may be in danger: If they imagine they can ignore the badness caused by their respective group, in hope of being forgiven for the sake of the "greater good," they are likely fooling themselves! Whether the organization's badness is child abuse by clergy members, or the abuse of the laity [or sheep] of their organization, it is surely unacceptable. We are fortunate today to be past the ignorance of the dark ages, so religious zealots (in most countries) can no longer burn their enemies alive at the stake, or in other ways physically torture them. Many still practice what ever hurtful practices the state allows however, toward those who do not accept their "interpretation" of truth. Their methods have not changed since such ignorant and judgmental men caused the dark ages. They still try to hide the Bible from people, just as the Church did during that dark period. They have gotten smarter tricker though; they now work to hide the Bible in plain sight. The way they do that is by teaching other books and study materials are equal to, or even better than, the Bible. Tuning people away from the simple teachings of the Bible [away from being "noble minded"] is a horrible abuse which falls upon persons who listen to them. It steals away hope and life; and many times people don't even understand what has happened to them. Some among such groups pat themselves on the back for abusing others and judging them wicked, imagining they are rendering God a "sacred service." (John 16:2) Love of God, and love of neighbor, precludes such abuse of others. Love forms the basic premise of the Christian teaching: (Mat 22:36-40 Darby) "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? And he (Jesus) said to him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy understanding. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments the whole law and the prophets hang." Thus, loving God and neighbor should be our primary effort. How though, can we be a good neighbor?

Jesus went on to clearly illustrate what it means to be a good neighbor. He used a story about a man who fell among robbers, and how that man was treated individually by three sperate men. One gift of the Bible is that it sometimes tells us why individuals did what they did: In this case we are helped by being told the young man, as a religious leader, asked his questions to test Jesus and to prove himself righteous. In this story by Jesus, the priest and Levite were Jewish religious leaders; and as such they publicly taught love and mercy. The Samaritan man in the story was judged and viewed by the Jews as a lower caste. We read Jesus's story at Luke 10:25-37: 'Now, look! a certain man versed in the Law rose up, to test him out, and said: "Teacher, by doing what shall I inherit everlasting life?" He said to him: "What is written in the Law? How do you read?" In answer he said: "You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole strength and with your whole mind, and, your neighbor as yourself." He said to him: "You answered correctly; keep on doing this and you will get life." But, wanting to prove himself righteous, the man said to Jesus: "Who really is my neighbor?" In reply Jesus said: "A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among robbers, who both stripped him and inflicted blows, and went off, leaving him half-dead. Now, by coincidence, a certain priest was going down over that road, but, when he saw him, he went by on the opposite side. Likewise, a Levite also, when he got down to the place and saw him, went by on the opposite side. But a certain Samaritan traveling the road came upon him and, at seeing him, he was moved with pity. So he approached him and bound up his wounds, pouring oil and wine upon them. Then he mounted him upon his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, "Take care of him, and whatever you spend besides this, I will repay you when I come back here." Who of these three seems to you to have made himself neighbor to the man that fell among the robbers?" He said: "The one that acted mercifully toward him." Jesus then said to him: "Go your way and be doing the same yourself."'

We should all remember this story, especially Jesus's final words: "Go your way and be doing the same yourself." [Being merciful.] Jesus leaves little doubt about being a good neighbor. This ties in with one of Jesus teachings about being judgmental of others.

Preaching Work: The best way of being good neighbor is to share with others what you learn about the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus said the preaching would be completed throughout the earth and then the end would come. (Matthew 24:14) The preaching work Jesus said would be done was not to come from glass cathedrals or ivory towers. Jesus followers, all his followers, were to preach the good news by simply talking among themselves about what he had taught them. (Acts 1:8b ; Acts 20:20) That includes us, and you. As you learn what the Bible teaches, you also learn it is alive and exerts power. (Hebrews 4:12) It helps you discern the thoughts and intentions of your own heart, so as to keep your motives pure. As you study the bible, faith in truth helps you recall what you have learned, and so to be able then to share it with others. (John 6:63 ; John 14:15-17 & 14:26) As people you know and come in contact with mention their fears and problems, you can share anything you have learned from the Bible that touches on their concern, or that can bring them hope and peace. That is being a good neighbor: Sharing the "good news of the kingdom" with them. (Matthew 4:23-25) You are thereby supporting the work started by Christ Jesus. As king of God's kingdom, Jesus taught and demonstrated what he would do earth-wide (Isaiah 16:4-5) for faithful mankind, when he returned in kingdom power. Supporting the work of Jesus is the purpose of life, and knowledge of Christ's kingdom shared by those who love others is the only hope for mankind.

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