Archive for the ‘Bible’ Category

“And who is my neighbour?”

9 July, 2017

In light of the divisions in American society that have been exposed and heightened by the US presidential elections, it may be a good time for followers of Jesus Christ to ask again the question: “And who is my neighbor?”

A lot has been written and said post-election, often in an attempt to deepen understanding on both sides. But there’s a real risk of “preaching to the choir,” talking past each other or reinforcing polar positions.

This article attempts to shift the balance of conversation from the horizontal plane to the vertical one. In other words, the intent is to promote our dialogue with—and particularly our response to—our Lord, without undermining our discourse with one another. In a time like this, we need to hear God speak into our situation and to make a right response to him.

To help us with this opportunity to hear God, let me ask you to slow down, reflect and complete the following sentence:

“The group(s) of people I seem to have the most wariness/anxiety over, fear of, or irritation/anger/animosity towards is/are ____________.”

What group do you have the most wariness over, fear of, or animosity towards?

The Shocking Samaritan

Now back to the question… “And who is my neighbor?”

The first time that question was asked, Jesus replied with what is now known as The Parable of the Good Samaritan.

We need to consider Jesus’ response carefully and deeply. But we need to make sure we read it in a way that shocks us like it did those who first heard those words.

The Samaritan in the story was anything but good from the viewpoint of those listening. They were despised, compromised, dishonest, treacherous, contaminants in society, and to be avoided as far as possible.

As New Testament scholar, Prof. Tim Geddert explains:

Jesus’ strategy [in responding to his enquirer] was not to pick a perfect example of merciful loving-kindness and let him demonstrate the right way to treat people in need. Jesus’ strategy was to shock his hearers by taking the least likely candidate… As surely as we link the adjectives “good” or “merciful” with… “Samaritan”, the Jews… would have supplied adjectives like “hateful”, “unclean”, “religiously-perverted”… Perhaps the parable still has the power to shock… if we try to imagine whom Jesus might have lifted out as his hero of compassion today.

Tim Geddert, Double Take: New Meanings from Old Stories

Who Offends You Most?

So how about, instead of ‘Samaritan’, we substitute in:

  • Blinded Trump supporters or blinkered Clinton advocates;
  • White evangelicals who “compromised the faith” by voting for either one of two morally-disqualified candidates, giving their vote away by nominating a third candidate or a write in, or not voting at all;
  • Supposed Christians who by their voting choices are inciting racism and misogyny or promoting corruption and fetal homicide;
  • Christian leaders who have (in essence) taken the Lord’s name in vain, used the Bible for partisan purposes, and – by failing to discern the underlying societal issues – have undermined the credibility and witness of the church;
  • Ignorant, conservative, working-class white males, or equally intolerant liberal elites with no empathy with the common working man;
  • Blacks, Hispanics, or minority groups who expect handouts, take our jobs and undermine our culture;
  • Immigrants (legal or illegal) who are an economic drain on – and a major security risk to – our once great nation;
  • [Your response to the sentence completion exercise above].

Choose a group that is most unlike you, most offensive to you—and then re-read the encounter between Jesus and this God-fearing lawyer who wanted to justify himself (Luke 10:25-37).

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” 

“Love God with everything and love your neighbor as yourself.” 

“And who is my neighbor?”

“The one who showed mercy toward him.”

“Go and do the same.”

In other words, let us go and show mercy (in heart and in action) on:

  • Those most different to ourselves;
  • Those that we feel justified to look down upon and erect barriers against;
  • Those we think would judge and despise us.

It’s interesting what Jesus does here. In his reply to the question “And who is my neighbor?”, he refused to look at the merits of the “Other”. In fact, Jesus led the lawyer to answer his own question. I trust we have done something of that here.

As he so often does, Jesus—whilst remaining deeply practical—moves matters on to a higher plane. He lands the coin on its edge. It wasn’t about who was right or wrong, better or worse. And it certainly wasn’t about who was in or out of our obligation to love. It was—no, it still is—about us Loving God by Loving Others. Jesus moves it beyond our viewpoints, debate and discourse. And made it about our love and our actions. Not how worthy the Other is, but how WE ARE toward the Other.

It’s interesting – hopefully impactful – to note that it inconvenienced the Samaritan to show mercy. He had to change plans and go out of his way. It cost him both time and money.

Here’s the kicker: In a situation where we are missing each other in the discourse—when we hear Jesus speak—the question becomes, “How will I respond to my Lord?”

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This blog post was first published at Missio Alliance under the title ‘Asking “Who Is My Neighbour?” After the Election’ on 9th December 2016.

The Word of God in the life of a person

28 May, 2011

In order to understand the importance of reading and studying the Bible for growing in our Christian lives, we need to understand the nature, purpose and workings of the Christian life. The essential nature of the Christian life is all about enjoying a restored right relationship with God our Father, through the Lord Jesus Christ and by the enabling for the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:3-14). Our old life was one of a wrong and broken relationship with God that resulted from sin. Sin, in its essence, is being self-centred rather than God-centred (Isa 53:6). However, our new life in Christ – as we truly embrace Jesus Christ as Lord – is one with God at the very centre, where He takes the highest place.

When we become Christians, we did not sign up for a club, a society, a denomination or a church – we signed up for a person, the Lord Jesus (Phil 3:7-11). Being a Christian by definition is being a follower of Christ. The essential purpose of the Christian life is to follow Christ in that relationship and to find our place is His purposes (Phil 3:12-14), which involves making Him and His salvation known to the earth and seeing His kingdom established in our lives and that of others.

The Christian life works when we use every God-given means to benefit from and enjoy all that Christ purchased for us at the Cross and has been made available to us by His Spirit (Rom 8:31-32). Once God is at the centre of our lives, then the Bible, God’s written Word, must automatically also come to the centre of our lives. God and His Word are intrinsically linked (Psa 138:2); Jesus is the personal Word of God, and the Bible is the written Word of God, and the Christian life does not work well if we try to take one without the other. We cannot grow in our knowledge of God except by growing in the knowledge and application of His Word. We cannot know what Jesus has purchased for us at the Cross other than by knowing it from the Bible, made alive to us by the Holy Spirit. We cannot even properly know ourselves except by God’s help through His Word. Furthermore, our love for Jesus is expressed and made real by our obedience to His Word (John 14:23).

The Bible makes it clear that once Jesus has become the foundation, the Rock, of our lives, we grow and build on that foundation by living according to His Word, i.e. by hearing and doing what He says (Mat 7:24-27). In the natural, we need food and nourishment to grow. In the Christian life, God’s nourishment for us to grow is in His Word. The Bible is pure milk for the new and young believer, a staple of bread for daily living, and solid food for those who are mature (1 Pet 2:2-3; Mat 4:4; Heb 5:11-14) – in other words, the Bible contains what we need to grow no matter what stage we are at in the Christian life.

Once we give the Bible its proper place in our lives, studying and applying it, then it can become to us all that it has promised to be. Some, but by no means all, of these blessings and benefits are listed below:

  • It reveals to us the nature, character and attributes of God, showing us the One we desire to know intimately and be like (John 5:39; Luke 24:27).
  • It reveals God’s calling and purposes for us in this life (Mat 28:18-20).
  • Living by it results in a growing revelation of Jesus and intimacy with Him (John 14:21).
  • It reveals to us the will of God and thereby enables us to pray effectively (1 John 5:14-15).
  • In living by it, we will be established and blessed (Psa 1; Mat 7:24-27; James 1:22-25).
  • It washes and cleanses us (John 15:3; Eph 5:25-27).
  • It ministers healing to us from God (Psa 107:20; Prov 4:20-22).
  • It accomplishes the purposes of God (Isa 55:10-11).
  • It reveals our heart (Heb 4:12).
  • It shows us who we are, by correcting our wrong thinking, character and behaviour, and revealing who we truly are in Christ Jesus (Jam 1:22-25).
  • It teaches us all that God has promised us in Christ (2 Cor 1:20).
  • It is able to save those who receive the Word of God (2 Tim 3:14-15; Jam 1:21; 1 Pet 1:23).
  • It instructs, corrects, reproves and trains us in righteousness, equipping us for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17).
  • It directs us (Psa 119:105).

As well as receiving these benefits of the Bible for ourselves, we also learn about our privilege, responsibility and capacity to pass these on to others (Mat 10:7-8; Mat 28:18-20).

In addition to teaching us by instruction, the Bible also teaches us powerfully by life examples. Seeing other people’s experiences with God creates in us a desire for more and inspires us to pursue and enter into the same. The Bible is a window into the unknown. The Christian life is about reaching out for where we have never been before in our relationship with God and our journey with Him. The Bible informs us of what can be, motivating us to press on and lay hold of all that for which Christ laid hold of us (Phil 3:12-14). Without the Word of God, it is easy to settle into a less-than-God-intended, man-made version of Christianity. However, through the Bible made alive to us by the Holy Spirit, God continually calls us into pursuing Him and His great purposes, and beckons us to reach out to become all that He has made us to be.


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