Who Is My Neighbour?
The God who has chosen me is the one I want to be like and He died for me to give me eternal life while blessing my life here and I shall reach out to others in need.

Who Is My Neighbour?

      Every day on Whatsap groups video messages are shared about an accident or someone being mercilessly beaten. No one seems ready to stop to help the victim by taking him or her to the hospital or to call an ambulance. Sometime back an accident victim was repeatedly driven over by others till one person stopped his vehicle to protect the body and divert the traffic and called the police. Why have we become so callous in our attitude towards others? 

       Names written in heaven and good deeds – Lord Jesus empowered His disciples and then seventy others to heal the sick in the adjoining areas and deliver the message of salvation. ‘The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord even the demons are subject to us in Your name’. The Savior Lord corrected them about their rejoicing about control over spirits by shifting their focus to ‘names being written in heaven’. All religions urge their followers to do good works to please God to gain entry into heaven but we gain this assured blessing through faith in the finished work of Lord Jesus on the cross. So why do we need to do good works – is it to please God and earn a place in His presence? The Scripture however declares, ‘No man is able for there are none that do good, not even one’ (Psalm 14:3) and that ‘All our righteous deeds are filthy rags before our holy God’ (Isaiah 64:6). But we are also warned that ‘as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also’ (James 4:26). Should we stop doing good deeds then? Are good works not enough by itself?

         Pharisees’ during Lord Jesus’ time were self appointed custodians and interpreters of the ‘Law of Moses’ and had brought in a total of 613 laws to be followed by all Jews. This figure was calculated by working out the numerical value of the ‘Torah’ to be 611 and to include the first two commandments of the Ten, said to have been directly received from God. Because Lord Jesus challenged their self made laws which had distorted the real intent of God’s commands, the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders were perpetually opposed to Him. They were, however, unsure of their personal salvation and frequently contacted the Lord to seek clarifications as well as to test and trap Him.

          One such Pharisee was Nicodemus who visited Lord Jesus at night for fear of the fellow Jews for he was a member of the Jewish Council, the Sanhedrin, and a teacher of the law. The answer to him was ‘unless one is born again, no one can enter the kingdom of heaven’ (John 3:1-5). As a result spiritual change in him was started and first he objected to condemnation of the Lord in a Sanhedrin meeting (John 7:50) and then joined Joseph of Arimathea as a kinsman to claim and bury Lord’s body (John 19:39). Another Pharisee wanted to test the Lord but fear of missing out is there in his question, ‘what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ (Luke 10:25). The command from God is clear, which is recited by every Jew daily as   Shema prayer, ‘Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength’ (Deuteronomy 6:5). The Pharisee recited this on being asked by the Lord and added to this another clause ‘with all your mind’ and then the second commandment also ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Luke 10:27).

         Reason behind the commandment – God created everything that was necessary for sustaining life on the earth and it was all visible and tangible. Then He formed a pile of dust in the shape of a man and breathed ‘ruach’ or breath, spirit or life into man and with that released a part of Himself into man. At creation this ‘ruach’ was the only one internal to man and externals were to operate under a  set of established laws. Man was not required to control or gain any knowledge about the natural things but to know the internal that is God and that revelation was made available to man through daily meetings (Genesis 1-3). Sin brought all other knowledge into our minds, affecting our feelings and desires and governing our bodies. The spirit of man knows, the soul feels and the body acts and we are to love God with all of self – the three the spirit, soul and body.

        The Global Positioning System or GPS helps a person with a ground receiver or a mobile phone to find out their own geographic location. But if our exact spiritual position is to be established our spiritual GPS must function properly and it needs to be properly aligned to God. If we are not in proper spiritual alignment with God Himself we can neither know nor love God or our neighbor. The Old Testament command is to love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18) but many hate themselves for their beauty or lack of it, finances or family etc. such a person will then have a right to hate also his neighbor.  Lord Jesus gave a new commandment to His followers, ‘love one another as I have loved you’ (John 13:34). Under this good works are essential for not to please God but to thank Him for His love expressed through His Son and His redeeming sacrifice on the cross. We express God’s love for us by doing good to others by His sacrifice ‘we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethern’ (1 John 3:16).

        Revenge, grudges and love – The complete command is ‘you shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD’ (Leviticus 19:18). Revenge and to bear a grudge are both closely related to maintain anger towards the other. The Hebrew word for neighbor used here is ‘lere-eka’ and it has a lamed before it changing the actual meaning to ‘you shall do love to your neighbor’ but it should be ‘you shall do (acts of love) to your neighbor. Job underlined the reason for doing good to others as ‘when His lamp shone upon my head, and when by His light I walked through darkness and then he performed acts of love towards the oppressed and needy (Job 29:3; 12-17). Job realized that no one can consistently be good towards others except when God’s love is poured out on me and it must remain on me overflowing towards others.Lord’s Prayer is specific ‘forgive us as we have forgiven others who have sinned against us’ (Matthew 6:12) thus if I do not do it then I also do not deserve it. The latest advertisement for the Ford car has a child traveling with his father in the car sees an accident victim whom nobody stops to help. The child’s innocent question to his father ‘if this happens to us will nobody stop to help us also’ elicits a positive response from the father and they stop to help take the person to the hospital. If I do not want to take the risk to help my neighbor how do I expect someone else to come to help me.

       Who then is my neighbor? – The Pharisee’s question to Lord Jesus was specific and the Savior Lord told the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man, presumably a Jew, while travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho was waylaid by the robbers and they stripped him of his clothing, wounded him and left him as half dead. First a priest and then a Levi came by, looked at the wounded man and passed him by. And then came a Samaritan man, a group of Jews of the northern kingdom who had married others and were hated by the Jews for being of a mixed race. The Samaritan did not pass him by but did seven acts of kindness – to see him and have compassion; went to him and assessed his need; bandaged his wounds after pouring oil and wine as a medicine; probably put on some clothes on him; set him on his own animal and walked; brought him to the inn; took care and next day left money with the inn-keeper to cover expenses for the injured man’s care with promise to pay any additional expenditure (Luke 10:33-35).  Job and the Samaritan did not expect any reward for their good deeds but acted out of compassion and love.

        Our Lord commands us to go one step further, to ‘love your enemies; bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you’ (Matthew 5:44). And He set an example of this under the most trying circumstances by seeking forgiveness for His accusers, the Jewish leaders. We tend to say, ‘but Lord’ trying to explain the reason for our hatred or revengeful attitude but there are no ‘buts or ifs’ in this command. This probably is the tougher command since loving God may be easier for He is the Provider and we fear Him.

      Faith in the Son of God as a Savior grants each believer the right to be a child of God (John 1:12) and this is an individual and personal relationship. It is non transferable and not national or ethnic. As a child of God whole of creation becomes a part of our inheritance and care of the same a responsibility. What is the need of the neighbor is a question we have to answer and meet for the neighbor does not come we seek him though he is the needy one. The need of everyone is to be redeemed from the clutches of the devil and the darkness of sin. The Great Commission is to meet this perpetually unmet need of humanity by taking the message of salvation of the Gospel to them.

        Sometime back we were faced with the case of a family in Jandiala, the location of our Institute of Theological Studies. The mother was making do with doing chores in houses while the marriage of her elder daughter was already fixed and arranged for, the second daughter was already working at a local shop as an assistant, the third daughter was studying in tenth while the fourth daughter was around 5-6 years old. And her husband committed suicide. The options before us were, do nothing and assure her that we shall all pray for her and her family and the Lord shall provide. The second option was to ignore since this was not our problem, the action taken by the priest and the Levite. It was decided to ensure proper education of the third daughter and she was shifted to the hostel of a good school where she had to drop a year and join in the ninth. After her schooling she joined an Institute of Hotel Management at Chandigarh for a one year diploma in ‘Bakery and Confectionery’. After completing that she has joined a 5 Star hotel as a trainee and will be able to care for her mother and the younger sister for the elder two have been married and settled.

        The Advertisement of the Ford car is relevant to us for God as a loving and merciful Father took pity on us and made us a part of Divine His family by giving His Most Precious and valuable Part – His Son. He saw our need and met the same urging us to do the same for others lost in sin. The question is not who my neighbor is but who is my God? The God we worship is the one we want to imitate. Our Lord died for us and has empowered us to act in His name and authority to reach out to others. Are we up to it!    

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