In my previous post ‘My neighbour, my worship Part 1’, I talked about loving your neighbour when your neighbour is someone you know. In living relationally with each other love should be expressed in the ups yet still in the downs. Your neighbour is everyone that’s around you and this post is about your neighbours that are more ‘strangers’. God says to love those in our community who we see from far off and could use help; the people we are too busy to second glance at as we go to and fro. This post is about loving those whose name and story we do not know but only see in an instant or a few seconds in their destitution. God knows their name and God knows their story, from the homeless in our streets to that starving child on the TV adverts, we have the power to love them and contribute to changing their circumstances.
God has a huge heart for the poor, the ‘lower’ in society, the outcasts etc. It is part of who He is and He loves: He loves sinners, Jesus is a friend of sinners and once when Jesus was asked why he was spending his time with the likes of tax collectors this was His reply, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.’ (Luke 5:31 NIV). Jesus stretched His hands out to those in the community that the more ‘righteous’ people would have shunned and if Christ is our role models as Christians then we need to sit and dine with ‘the sick’ and always have their cause on our hearts. That is a major way that God calls us to love our neighbour.
We shouldn’t turn a blind eye on our brothers and sisters in need like the priest and the Levite in the parable of The Good Samaritan. We need to be good Samaritans to all our neighbours who are less fortunate than us and they should always be on our minds and in our hearts. The best and easiest way is to pray for them, with expectation and with all our might, we need to put ourselves in their shoes and hurt with them and cry out to God for delivery starting with their salvation. Another great and essential thing to do is by being more practical. Are we going to step towards them, make a pointed decision to go and chat with them? Did we read about them in the newspaper or saw their cause on TV? What practical steps are we going to take next in response? We aren’t blessed just to enjoy, nod and smile, look from left to right at the blessed condition of our lives. Nor are we blessed to boost our egos, to purchase this or that just because we want it and it will make us happy.
Unfortunately, because sin has been unleashed in our world, there is injustice: the poor are getting poorer and the rich richer. This shouldn’t happen if we follow what the Bible says. People are being trafficked, children groomed and exploited for war or for sex, homelessness is rife, unemployment too, war is tearing families apart to leave orphans, widows, more homelessness and more unemployment. This is the world we live in and we have the power to do something about it. There are good organisations for good causes that could be donated to or helped in other ways; petitions, marches, letters, and any other way that YOU can imagine. Right from your doorstep, in your community to globally. By the power of God, by petition and prayer, God can do these things and we need to be His vessels for that. We need to have a heart for the poor and needy and not make any excuses about why we tie our hands.
As part of God’s huge heart and love for the poor, He asks us as His sons and daughters to help and give as much as we can. God expects us to always be mindful of them in our daily lives, take care of them, not cheat nor take advantage of them and certainly not scheme to keep them poorer and keep ourselves richer. In the Bible, God is constantly enraged when His people the Israelites treat each other wickedly and not per His laws and He expresses this again and again through His prophets: Isaiah, Ezra, Jeremiah, Hosea, Joel, Amos and many more. Here are lots of examples below. (all in NIV)
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.
I believe this verse is referring to God’s people not loving each other nor God from their hearts but being religious and following a set of rules to justify themselves such as offering every sacrifice that God has demanded according to the law. However, God sees their heart and knows it is so far from Him so their sacrifices don’t please Him at all. Instead, He is desiring the Israelites to have mercy on each other by lending a helping hand. This is effectively what is said by the Word of God in Isaiah below..
Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah! “The multitude of your sacrifices– what are they to me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations– I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood! Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
Beat your ploughshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say, “I am strong!”
But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!
If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever.
This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.
“Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his own people work for nothing, not paying them for their labour.
“Thus has the LORD of hosts said, ‘Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.’
These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the LORD.
Her officials within her are like wolves tearing their prey; they shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain.
He does not oppress anyone, but returns what he took in pledge for a loan. He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked.
In you they have treated father and mother with contempt; in you they have oppressed the foreigner and mistreated the fatherless and the widow.
In you are people who accept bribes to shed blood; you take interest and make a profit from the poor. You extort unjust gain from your neighbours. And you have forgotten me, declares the Sovereign LORD.
Brothers and sisters, I charge you please to obey God’s commands about love and make it an action, use your voice for the voiceless, fight and pray for justice and never give up till God’s glory is made known. Please consider your actions and let them be fair and just and don’t make decisions to favour yourself by keeping people oppressed and cheating them just to acquire riches, whatever form that may be. God abhors that and at His right time He will defend every defenceless face, avenge them and execute judgement. Let’s remember that Jesus said ‘the poor you will always have with you’ and ‘whatever you did for the least of these you did for me’. There will be a day when there will be no such divide between all people of this earth; no suffering, sorrow, pain, hunger, and injustice. It is the day that the Lord shall come again and I just can’t wait.