Friday, January 4, 2013

Who is my Neighbor?

25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?  26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?  27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.  28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.  29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?  -Luke 10:25-29

The Word of God teaches we are to be willing to help those around us if someone needs a helping hand.  If our neighbor is in need and we have the means to assist, then Christ commands us to reach out in a tangible way.  Who did Jesus say is our neighbor?  Our neighbor is anyone who is in need.  One problem today is that we have been taken advantage of so many times.  I know of a church in another state who once helped a family in the community with a place to live, furniture, food, clothing, and employment.  One day the pastor and a deacon went by to see how the people were doing and the house was empty.  The family had packed up and left town with no notice and no forwarding address.  Sadly, this kind of situation is common.  Regardless of whether or not we have been ill used, we are still to reach out in Jesus’ name, sometimes in tangible ways, but do so with wisdom and godly discernment.  

I also have to consider my literal neighbors who live on my street and next door to my home.  God has blessed us these days with wonderful neighbors who are kind, honest, and always willing to lend a helping hand.  However, this has not always been the case.  Over the years as Andrea and I have been involved in various ministries and during our years of college and seminary, our meager budget forced us to live in very humble circumstances.  While this presented unique opportunities for ministry, it also brought challenges for reaching out in love to our neighbors.  We will not soon forget our neighbor in Kentucky, who after killing a deer during hunting season, hung the entire deer in his kitchen, which he then skinned and consumed right in the house.  He was proud of the convenience of his operation in that he could cut meat right from the carcass and then place the meat directly in the frying pan on the stove.  I regret not taking a picture, for you had to see it to believe it!

When Jesus was questioned as to who constitutes a neighbor, the Lord demonstrated through the parable of the Good Samaritan that our neighbor is anyone who is in need.  If we have the means for helping someone we are called to do so, and not for our good or for seeking anything in return, but in so doing we demonstrate the love of the Lord Jesus.  Reaching out to those around us will be a challenge and at times frustrating and disappointing.  However, we are shining the light of Christ and the results will have eternal implications.  Some of those we reach out to will have the gospel planted in their hearts and will one day receive Christ because of our ministry to them.

So, who is your neighbor?  They are all around us.  Therefore, be sensitive, discerning, and available, for the Lord will use this in wonderful ways in the furthering if His kingdom.