Our Christian Nationality

A number of years ago I was sitting in a church service listening to the minister introduce his sermon topic for the day. One of the first things he said was, “Close your Bibles and put them on the floor. I’ve got something to tell you this morning.” Smacks of Bibles hitting linoleum is a sound I hope never to hear again. While teenage me wasn’t brave enough to stand up and walk out, I did keep my Bible open in my lap so I could do my own study while he lectured on American history.

The United States of America, rather than something out of the Bible, should feel like a strange topic for a sermon. And yet I’ve heard other sermons, though much less extreme, preached about this topic on a fairly regular basis. Typically, it’s presented as something like “the Biblical history of our country” or “America’s Christian heritage.” The speakers usually do turn to scriptures, but they may spend more time quoting founding fathers and presidents than they do Jesus.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. This isn’t a rant against my country or an article condemning people who love the U.S. of A (which I why I didn’t post this 4th of July weekend, though it would have probably gotten more views then). Nor am I saying Christians teachers shouldn’t quote writings outside the Bible. My concern is that patriotism for our physical nation has gotten muddled up with our Christian faith as if the two are, or should be, interconnected. But I don’t think they should be.Our Christian Nationality | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Not Of The World

When Jesus walked this earth, He said He was “not of this world” (John 8:23, KJV). At the Passover, He started describing His followers that way as well (John 15:19; 17:14-16). We still have to live in this world, as Paul points out in 1 Cor. 5:10, but we don’t belong to it.

“We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5:19, KJV). The present world is evil because it has fallen into sin and is under Satan’s sway (Gal. 1:4; John 14:30). I think most Christians would agree with that at least to a certain extent, otherwise we’d have no need for a Savior. But often, we think of this world’s evil as an abstraction. The world “out there” is wicked, “society” is evil, or there’s a spirit of wickedness at large “somewhere.” But maybe my neighborhood, this city, our country isn’t really all that bad.

Here in the U.S., we don’t yet face the sort of persecution that would serve as a constant reminder that this world isn’t a Christian’s home. I’m thankful for that, but I also wonder if it has made us lose sight of some important truths. The United States was founded with some Christian principles and a guarantee of a religious freedom, but it was never a “Christian nation” and it hadn’t even looked like one for a long time. And while you have the right as an American to get involved in pushing your country toward where you’d like it to go and a duty as a Christian to stand up for what’s right in God’s sight, this physical nation isn’t where we owe our primary allegiance. Continue reading

Be The “Anyone”

There are 3,310 pairs of socks in the men’s homeless shelter.

This past weekend, I attended a young adult service and enrichment weekend. After a Friday evening and Saturday of discussion questions, seminars, Shabbat services, and good fellowship we spent Sunday on a service project. Nearly 100 of us descended on a homeless shelter to help tackle some of their needs, including wall painting, deep cleaning, window washing, and sorting the donations room.

I spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out what my gifts are and how to use them effectively. That interest in personal growth and development is, in part, why this blog exists. But somewhat surprisingly (to me, at least), this weekend’s focus on filling your role in the body of Christ barely touched on spiritual gifts and individual talents. Rather, the take-away was finding your identity as a servant of Christ and then following His example no matter what.

Photo: “Helping Hands” by Valerie Everett, CC BY-SA via Flickr

While I’m a staunch advocate for finding, developing, and using your gifts (that’s why you have them, after all), it doesn’t really take any particular gift to count socks. Perhaps someone with a gift for math could have worked more quickly, or a person with a gift for organization sorted them more efficiently. But really the only thing absolutely essential was showing up and doing the work.

In focusing on where we fit best, perhaps we sometimes close ourselves off to areas where anyone could serve. Maybe we think, “Anyone could do that, so I’ll focus on what I do best.” But that doesn’t mean “anyone” will actually step-up and do it.

During your quest to find the best way to use your gifts, don’t overlook the importance of being the “anyone” who will step in and fill needs. Move from theory to practice. Whether it’s in your family, your church, or your community, let’s look for opportunities to help and then actually take them.

Walking by Faith (and next e-book announcement)

I just got back yesterday from an incredible  service-themed Young Adult weekend. It didn’t start out all that well for me, though. The day before I left I started feeling nervous (which is normal for me going into social events) but then by the time I left on Friday I had a shaking-crying-hyperventilating panic attack (which is becoming less and less normal/frequent for me).

I was really caught off-guard by this. I knew several people there — not just as acquaintances, but as friends — and I’d been eagerly looking forward to this event for weeks. I chalked it up to my too-active imagination combined with uncertainty about Friday evening’s schedule, breathed deep, prayed, turned Fallout Boy up, and started driving …

… and hit heavy traffic and rain (my two least favorite things to drive in). That left me running 20 late to met the people I was supposed to be car pooling with to the house I didn’t have an address for. Thankfully, one of the people I was meeting is also one of only 2 out of 100+ people at the weekend with my phone number, and he texted me the address. I proceeded to enter said address in my GPS and it took me to a house with no cars in the driveway.

It is either a testament to my stupidity or my faith that I walked up and rang the doorbell. Turns out, my friend accidentally sent me to another church member’s home (whose name I recognized, though I’d never met them) and they fed me cheese, gave me the correct address, and sent me on my way. Oddly, that’s when I felt a sense of peace for the first time all day. I was late, I was temporarily lost and yet God showed me that these worries coming true weren’t anything He couldn’t handle.

Saturday brought a great round of seminars and an excellent sermon on foot washing and Passover. Nothing to worry about, until game night happened. I’m sure I’m in the minority judging by how many people said they had a wonderful time, but any sort of game that involves doing something in front of other people or in a group or on a team makes me intensely uncomfortable, especially if you add competition. The first two games were mixers where you asked someone a question and their name. I literally remember nothing from meeting people this way (does it even count as a “meeting” then?). Next was that game where you tie a balloon to your ankle and try to keep it from getting popped while popping everyone else’s balloon. I could have kissed whoever it was that popped my balloon the moment the game started.

That’s the last game I “played” (I stepped on my own balloon when they started round two) and I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of my evening talking with two other people who saw no appeal in participating. Give me a deep conversation with someone over competitive and/or rambunctious games any day. Now that’s how to meet new people. (Side-track back to the topic of social anxiety: game night continued throughout my conversations and there was a Bag of Doom from which they were drawing names to participate in a novelty challenge which you had to do while standing in the center of a room surrounded by 80-something people watching you. Can anyone say “introvert’s worst nightmare”?)

I think one of the biggest lessons I learned this weekend was that my fears were either 1) groundless or 2) didn’t have the power to hold me back. The fact that I had a panic attack before leaving turned into a blessing because it gave me the choice between either canceling my plans or praying through it and trusting God. I chose the later, and I kept encountering situations that could make me feel nervous and which reminded me to stay in prayer all weekend. Every single one of the things I was worried about worked out for the best, and the only part of that I can take credit for is that I took the step to go to the weekend and start a few conversations. The rest was all God.

This brings us in a very round-about way back to the topic of the weekend — service. Specifically, “Unlocking Your Desire To Serve.” As many of you know, I consider this blog a sort of ministry and it’s been growing in ways that amaze me and make me want to do more. One of the big things that holds me back is my own fears, including my fear of panicking when it’s important that I talk with people about my faith. So for me, blending this weekend’s focus on service with a need to rely on God for help working through my anxiety was a powerful experience.

  • If you gave up reading that long rambling post and started scrolling, here’s the e-book announcement:

Something I haven’t shared with many people is that in my local Messianic congregation I’ve been receiving words, prayers, and hints from brethren for the last several months along the lines of “God’s going to do something big in/with your life soon.” I even finally have a hint as to what that might involve after I came back from services a few weeks ago with a title for an e-book in my head which I promptly sat down and outlined. I’ve barely worked on it since, but this weekend was exactly what I needed to reconfirm that God wants me to be sharing my gifts through writing and that He’s more than capable of overcoming deficiencies on my part.

My first step is officially announcing the project here on this blog. The working title is “Rise Up, My Love” and the focus will be on reigniting the church’s passion for God (so, basically this blog in book form). I’m not committing to a release-date quite yet (it would be lovely to have it out by Sukkot/Feast of Tabernacles this fall, but I think a full year might be more realistic judging by how long it took to write The INFJ Handbook). I’ll keep you posted on details.

 

Servants of God Forever

Servants of God Forever | marissabaker.wordpress.comLast week we talked about the future, and what the people of God might be doing in the tribulation leading up to Christ’s return. Today, let’s go a bit father into the future. In Revelation 20, we’re told that the devil will be locked away for 1,000 years while the faithful live and reign with Christ (20:4). At the end of the Millennium, he is released and those who join his rebellion against God are destroyed, and Satan is locked away (20:7-10). This is followed by the second resurrection and final judgement of the dead who were not counted among the firstfruits.

From this point on, we have very little detail. Revelation 21 and 22 gives descriptions of the New Jerusalem and the new heaven and new earth, and we’re told there will be “nations of those who are saved” (21:24). We know “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” giving light to the entire world (21:22; 22:5). One thing we don’t know is exactly what we’ll be doing there. Most speculation I’ve heard assumes we’ll be helping Christ re-build the world and counsel survivors of the tribulation through the Millennium. Some have suggested we might spread out and colonize other planets after that. But we really don’t know. I’ve always thought that if it was really important for us to know, God would have told us. A message I heard a couple weeks ago, though, has me wondering if He did give us some clues after all.

Servants

The Rabbi at my Messianic group was talking a couple weeks ago about patterns that God sets up in how He runs things. In ancient Israel, the Levites were a tribe set apart for God, which this speaker connected to our role today as God’s called-out people. The Rabbi’s focus was on how that affects us today, but I wondered if it might carry over into the future as well, with God re-using this pattern.

Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the children of Israel, and the Levites shall be Mine. After that the Levites shall go in to service the tabernacle of meeting. So you shall cleanse them and offer them like a wave offering. (Num. 8:14-15)

The Levites — 1 tribe out of 12 — were specifically set aside for God to serve in His tabernacle. Verse 11, here in Numbers 8, calls them “a wave offering from the children of Israel, that they may perform the work of the Lord.” Similar wording is used today, as we’re called to present ourselves to God as an offering.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom. 12:1)

Our lives aren’t our own. When we commit to following God, we pledge everything we are to His service. We are His, and just as He said the Levites “shall be Mine,” so He can call each of us His because He redeemed us.

For they are wholly given to Me from among the children of Israel; I have taken them for Myself instead of all who open the womb, the firstborn of all the children of Israel. For all the firstborn among the children of Israel are Mine, both man and beast; on the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them to Myself. I have taken the Levites instead of all the firstborn of the children of Israel. (Num. 8:16-18)

Servants of God Forever | marissabaker.wordpress.comBecause of the events that happened on Passover, when the Lord rescued Israel from Egypt, all the firstborn were holy to Him. Instead of having all the firstborn sent to serve in the tabernacle, though, He set aside one tribe for that role. In much the same way, Jesus Christ’s sacrifice made redemption possible for all people, but right now He’s only working with the firstfruits.

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

We are purchased with Christ’s blood, bought-back from our enslavement to sin so we can serve God (Rom. 6:15-23). That’s not a role that’s going away any time soon.

And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever. (Rev. 22:3-5)

This is in the description of the New Jerusalem. Right before this, it talks about “the nations” who walk in God’s light and are healed by the tree of life (Rev. 21:24-22:2). Then, we see God’s servants mentioned as a separate group. Could that be those who were firstfruits, continuing in their role as servants especially chosen for God’s holy use?

Priests

Not all the Levites served as priests. Even within the tabernacle service there were different roles and responsibilities. Most notable was the fact that there was only one high priest at any given time. Today, the role of High Priest is held by Jesus Christ (Heb. 8:1-6), whose perfect sacrifice fulfilled the sacrifices offered by the Old Covenant high priests. So, where did the rest of the Levites fit in?

And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the work for the children of Israel in the tabernacle of meeting, and to make atonement for the children of Israel, that there be no plague among the children of Israel when the children of Israel come near the sanctuary. (Num. 8:19)

Here, the Levites are described as a gift given to the high priest for service in the tabernacle. This is repeated several chapters later.

 Behold, I Myself have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel; they are a gift to you, given by the Lord, to do the work of the tabernacle of meeting. (Num. 18:6)

This sounds a lot like Jesus’ prayer on the night in which He was betrayed.

I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. (John 17:9-10)

Servants of God Forever | marissabaker.wordpress.comGod has given us to His Son, our High Priest, to serve and glorify Him. As quoted earlier, we are God’s temple today. That’s where priests serve — in the temple (or the tabernacle, at the time when Numbers was written). Jesus is in His church as the High Priest in His temple, and we’re right there serving with Him.

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9)

Even today, God’s people are described as a priesthood. That role continues into the future — definitely into the Millennium, and quite probably beyond.

Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Rev. 20:6)

When you look back at the book of Numbers, both passages we quoted about the Levites’ role as helpers to the high priest emphasized service. That’s also the common thread uniting the two descriptions of God’s people in the future as servants and priests. If we want to work on something that will carry over into the future, serving God by serving His people seems a good place to start. There is an aspect of our future that involves ruling, but to learn to rule with Christ, we must first learn to serve. That’s what Christ did and does (Phil. 2:5-9), it’s what Paul did (Phil. 2:17-18), and that’s what we should be doing.

 

What Is A Minister?

So many people, across every Christian denomination, are becoming fed-up with church. Last week, we talked about how part of the reason people say they leave the church is how badly they were treated by fellow believers. Another reason people give for leaving, or at least rejecting “organized religion,” is how they’ve been treated by the ministry.

What is a Minister? | marissabaker.wordpress.comI’ve been blessed in that I’ve had both good and bad experiences with people in ministry roles. I know others who have only seen exploitative, authoritarian, or otherwise bad examples of the ministry. To keep hold of our faith, sometimes we have to be able to look past men like this and cling fast to God. We can’t fall into the trap of blaming Him for what people do. In fact, He’s probably upset even more upset than we are. How would you feel if someone started mis-treating your children while saying that they served you?

Seeing so many examples of what the ministry shouldn’t be leads some to think perhaps there shouldn’t be a ministry or human leadership roles in the church at all. There are too many scriptures that talk about the proper role of ministers, though, for me to agree. Rather, it make me ask, “Ideally, what does God want the ministry to do?” and “How can we recognize a true minister?” If we can answer those questions, perhaps we can encourage the people who do have leadership and teaching abilities towards being the kind of ministers God wants so see. Perhaps some of us can even fill those roles.

Puts Christ First

Jesus Christ is the Head over all things to the church (Eph. 1:22) and the Head of each individual (1 Cor. 11:3). A true minister will acknowledge Christ as his Head, and also respect Christ’s role as your Head.

Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand. (2 Cor. 1:24)

Good ministers also recognize that any authority they do have comes from Jesus. He is the One who appoints ministry roles in order that His people might grow towards perfection and be edified in unity (Eph. 4:11-16).

And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry (1 Tim. 1:12)

I dare say no one has had an experience quite like Paul’s conversion and calling, but everyone in a ministry role owes their appointment to Jesus Christ. If their allegiance lies anywhere else, then they are not a true minister. As believers we cannot build on any foundation other than Jesus Christ, and as teachers we cannot lay any other foundation and expect to prosper (1 Cor. 3:11-13).

Not A “Hireling”

I’m of two minds regarding the paid ministry. One the one hand, it is clear in scripture that the people who serve God’s people are supposed to be supported by the brethren. On the other hand, it seems that (in the church as well as in the world) the more money involved the more likely people are to become corrupt.

If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. (1 Cor. 9:11-14)

Paul did not choose to live off the churches’ money and generosity, but he would have had every right to do so. Similarly, when Jesus sent the 70 out to preach He told them to dwell as guests in one house “eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages” (Luke 10:7). Paul uses the same phrase in 1 Timothy when explaining why elders deserve respect (1 Tim. 5:17-18).

What is a Minister? | marissabaker.wordpress.com

( Paul Woods, via Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA)

The problems are more likely to arise, I think, when ministers are hired and paid by a corporation rather than supported by their local churches. To be fair, I have seen good and bad ministers in both independent and corporate churches, but I do think the corporate ministry is more likely to attract more of the sort of people who are in it for the prestige, politics, and paycheck.

But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. (John 10:12-13)

Again, I want to stress that not all paid ministers have this attitude. I do think, however, that a system in which ministers are dependent on a corporate group for money and assignments rather than being connected to a local congregation is more likely to produce “hirelings” who are not invested in truly caring for Christ’s sheep.

Helpers of Your Joy

We already quoted 1 Corinthians 1:24, which describes the ministry’s role as “fellow workers for your joy.” The King James Version renders this “helpers of your joy.” There are times for correcting those who teach other doctrines and rejecting heretics “after the first and second admonition,” as Paul told Timothy and Titus (1 Tim. 1:3-8; Tit. 3:10-11). Discipline and rule is not a minister’s main role, though. A minister’s influence in a congregation should bring joy and peace. If someone needs corrected, it should be done with the respect due a family member (1 Tim. 5:1-2).

When Paul gives instructions to Timothy and Titus, he tells them to remind the brethren of our foundation in Christ, to teach and encourage, to exercise godliness, to shun profanity and nonsense, and to live peaceably (1 Tim. 4:6-7; 2 Tim. 2:14-16; Tit. 2:1-15). Basically, they were to do what Paul himself did — teach the brethren and equip them with the tools needed so they could draw closer to God and not “be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3).

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12-13)

Notice that Paul wanted this church group to be able to work toward salvation without his help or presence, recognizing that it was God who worked in them. This didn’t eliminate the need for Paul’s role, but it meant they weren’t supposed to be dependent on any human minister. Other believers, including the ministry, can help us on the road to salvation, but they are not the One “who works in you” (1 Cor. 3:4-11).

That is the key to what make a true minister — they seek God first, and do everything they can to make sure the people they serve also seek God first and develop a relationship with Him. Really, it just means they are doing the same thing that every believer should be doing. They are showing love and helping their brethren in the best way they can using their specific gifts. There is much more to a minister’s role than this, but this is where everything has to start.

First Do No Harm

Let-nothing-be-doneOften cited as part of the Hypocratic Oath, “First do no harm” is a motto of good doctors everywhere (thought is was actually written by an Englishman named Thomas Sydenham). The sentiment is one we in the church would do well to emulate.

Time and again I read or hear things like this: “I still love God, but I’ll never go back to a church again. The people are too cruel/hypocritical/shallow/judgmental.” One or two people saying this could perhaps be explained away, but it’s not just a few disgruntled individuals. It is becoming an epidemic.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)

This sort of love is the very definition of doing no harm, since agape always seeks the well-being of its object. So what does it say about the church’s track-record of keeping this commandment when we are driving people away from church?

Love Your Neighbor

To get an increased sense of how serious God is about the need for us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and our brethren the way that Christ loves us, lets look at James 2.

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:8-10)

We can’t tell ourselves, “Well, it’s okay if I don’t love everyone since its not like I’m murdering them.” This is not to belittle how serious murder is, but as far as you’re concerned not loving someone is just as serious a violation of God’s law (James 2:11-13).

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. (Matt. 5:21-22)

Someday, we will have to answer to God for every time we were angry with someone for no reason, every time we looked down on them, every time we treated them with disdain — in short, we will answer for every time we did not show God’s love in our interactions with other people. That’s a sobering (perhaps terrifying) thought.

Don’t Hinder Them

Though the phrase “do no harm” is not found in scripture, we do see several verses that express the same sentiment. God instructs us to put the welfare of others first and do all we can to not hurt them.

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:3-5)

Part of Jesus Christ’s mindset was to help, not hurt, those He came into contact with. He put His people’s needs above His own to the point of dying for them. Following His example, we must also focus on helping, not hindering, our brethren.

 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. (Rom. 14:10-13)

In our dealings with other believers, one of our first priorities should be not giving them reason to stumble in their walk with God. Instead, we should be focused on building each other up.

Importance of Well-Doing

It is not enough to “do no harm,” though that is a good first step. It is also important to actively do good. On His last Passover as a human being, Jesus told His disciples that the Father is glorified when they “bear much fruit,” which is one of the signs that they are indeed followers of Jesus (John 15:8). We can say we’re following Jesus, but if we aren’t bearing some kind of good fruit then we are not glorifying God.

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17)

This isn’t just James giving us an example of the kind of works we are supposed to do (e.g. help destitute brethren). He’s also making a comparison that tells us faith without works is as useless and empty as talk and no action.

You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:24-26)

Rahab did have faith, but it wasn’t effectual until shown by her works. She could have just sat in her house believing “the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath,” but she would have died along with everyone else in Jericho if she hadn’t taken action to help God’s people (Josh 2:9-11).

In Luke 10, Jesus was discussing the two greatest commandments with a lawyer who had a questions about the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” When he asks, “and who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied by telling the story of the Good Samaritan. In this parable, a Jewish man is beaten and robbed and the spiritual leaders of the day declined to help him. It was a Samaritan — someone the Jews had no dealings with (John 4:9) — who saved the Jewish man’s life. At the end of the parable, Jesus asks, “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” The lawyer says, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:36-37). The answer to the lawyer’s question is that we are obligated to love and help anyone who needs us, even if we don’t like them and especially if they are our brethren.

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Gal. 6:7-10)

We’re supposed to do good and help others whenever we have the opportunity. That’s part of what love is, and love is essential in the type of church Christ is building. The closer we get to being the church that Christ is aiming for when He says “I will build My church,” the more likely we will be to welcome people toward God rather than push them away.
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