loren Eric Swanson: Who Does God Use? Loving God and Loving Neighbor

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Who Does God Use? Loving God and Loving Neighbor

A Call to Action by Andy Swanson

In a time of Plague, Draught, Famine, or Natural disaster, Christians throughout history have taken care of each other as well as taken care of their non-believing friends and relatives. During these times, having a Christian friend meant that your survival rate was more than three times that of a non-believer with no Christian friends.[1]
Luke 10:25-37

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"
He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'
"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

Loving Your Neighbor
An expert in the Law asked Jesus how he could inherit eternal life. The answer in the Law is summed up by loving the Lord and loving your neighbor. According to the parable of the Good Samaritan, two Lovers of “God,” the Priest and the Levite, did not love their neighbor, the wounded man on the side of the road. Instead in this parable, the one who loved his neighbor, the one who showed mercy to his neighbor, was an outsider, a nonbeliever, a sinner, a Samaritan.

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 1 John 3:16-20

God has chosen and commissioned his church to be his body, his hands and feet, to serve and comfort the poor needy hurting people of the world, to love with actions and in truth. He has given us his authority to preach the good news and make disciples. Matt. 28:18-20 His purpose is to redeem the world and use his church to do it. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. 2 Corinthian 5:20

This is our job and role in ushering in the kingdom of God, but what happens when the people of God do not obey or do what God tells them to? Is God trapped if believers do not do his will and are not obedient in serving him through being his witnesses to the world, taking care of the poor and needy, acting justly and loving mercy? God gives his church, his followers, many chances to obey and accomplish his will, but if the believers do not respond, He will choose to work through others, through the Samaritans, the nonbelievers and sinners to accomplish his will and be glorified throughout the earth. Romans 9:17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth."

Jeremiah 27:5-6 With my great power and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it, and I give it to anyone I please. Now I will hand all your countries over to my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; I will make even the wild animals subject to him.

We know that God used Pharaoh as an enemy of God to display his power. But God also used other Pagan Kings to do his will and bring judgment upon his people and other nations for their failure to love God and Neighbor. King Nebuchadnezzar was used to carry out God’s will and judgment on the people of Judah even though he did not believe in the Lord or give him glory until many years later. Daniel 4:37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

Sodom is one of the most well known evil cities in the Bible. It is constantly referred to as being a horrible Godless place. So what was Sodom’s sin, why was it so horrible? The people of Sodom did not love their neighbor.

" 'Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. Ezekiel 16:49

Jesus was about God’s glory and loving people, his neighbors. His mission “The spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me… because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Luke 4:18-19 /Isaiah 61

When God’s chosen people, the church, stop being the body of Christ by not loving their neighbors, God chooses to use the Samaritans and sinners of the world make his name known and to save the week and oppressed. God will still get glory, but the church will be judged and will not be blessed. There is also another interesting thing happens, the people who are looked down upon by the “church” or not allowed into the church for being sinners and nonbelievers begin to be recognized and called “People of God.” When the church refuses to do the work of the church, God chooses others.

As he says in Hosea: "I will call them 'my people' who are not my people; and I will call her 'my loved one' who is not my loved one,” and, "It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living God.'” Romans 9:25-26

Love the Lord
Many will say that the reason the people of the church can often neglect loving their neighbors is because they are too busy doing the best thing, loving God and serving him. “We don’t have time to do everything so we must prioritize by spending most of our time loving God, going to church, praying, reading the bible and fellowshipping with other believers.”

Look at the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Priest and Levite were working as Servants of the Lord. They were busy, like many Christians, loving God. They were probably both good people who were willing to help as long as it didn’t interfere with their jobs or lives. They may have said a prayer or asked for God’s blessing for the man as they passed by, but they knew that if they stopped to help their “neighbor,” this bloody dirty person who probably was a bad man who most likely deserved this punishment anyway, they would be late for church or have to miss church all together that day or maybe for 2 or 3 days. These “servants of the Most High” weren’t bad people, they just understood that they had responsibilities and could not sacrifice the “work of God” to help some stranger.

John 14:21, 23-24
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."
Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
How do we love Jesus? We obey his commands.

1 John 2:3-6 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

How do we know we know and are in Jesus? We obey his commands and walk and as Jesus did.
1 John 3:16-20 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

If during a crisis Christians fulfilled their ideal of ministering to everyone, there would be many pagan survivors who owed their lives to Christian neighbors.[2]

Matthew 25:31-46
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

When all normal services break down, quiet elementary nursing will greatly reduce mortality. Simple provision of food and water for instance, will allow persons who are temporarily too weak to cope for themselves to recover instead of perishing miserably.[3]

Who really loves the Lord? Those who obey Jesus and love the least through feeding them, giving them something to drink, inviting them in, clothing them, visiting them. ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

John 21:15-17
15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
16Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."
17 The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my sheep.”

Today there are some 100 million hungry children in the world who get virtually no assistance. We have calculated that it would cost around $5 billion a year to provide them and their mothers with a basic package of food, nutrition and health care[4]. Right now there are hundreds of thousands of people dying from lack of food and basic medical care. There are people who are being oppressed pushed around because they don’t know their rights, they have no one to defend them. People are dying everyday without knowing the saving grace of Jesus.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up ad judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy-Prov 31:8-9

Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.[5]

So here is the question: How are we loving God and our neighbor? Do we love the least of these? Can we be men and women of prayer and faith lived out through action? Can we be God’s hands and feet and change the world, or are we going to sit back and watch God choose someone else?
Why don’t we start right now and begin to pray for God to use us now and here where we are. Let us lead the way in our Campuses and Work places. Let us communicate to the world that God wants to show them his love. Let us begin to give right now to feed the starving children in Africa, Asia and around the world. $.25 can feed someone for a day. Can we organize our classmates and coworkers to each feed one starving child a day? Can we go and serve in the ravaged, broken hells of this world? Christians need to lead the way so that we can communicate the love of God in order to bring heaven to these hells. Our job is not just be good people. Don’t wait for God to choose someone else. He is calling the church. He is calling you.
Jesus is asking YOU: “Do YOU Love Me?”… “Feed my sheep.”
“Do YOU Love Me?”… “Take care of my sheep.”
“Do YOU Love Me?”… “Feed my sheep.”
Who can help the 2 million cyclone victims facing disease and starvation in Burma? Who can help the homeless hopeless people of the Si Chuan earthquake?
“Who will help them? Who will help them?”- A Sichuan woman cried out after seeing her apartment building collapse with her mother and 5 month old baby inside.
Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? Isaiah 6:8
Christians in Burma are working to assist survivors of the cyclone.
A local believer said this:
"I believe that as we bring relief assets to the orphanages and churches with whom we are partners, we will not only be helping them but also providing them with the necessary resources to impact their immediate communities with the tangible love of Jesus. In the end, I believe that the church will shine in this dark hour and that the Kingdom of God will be advanced in this nation."

Here are two places to give to help our neighbor, to feed and clothe Jesus. You can help right now.

香港 For the Hungry International Hong KongBox No. 60104Tsat Tsz Mui Post OfficeHong Kong Phone: (852) 2560-6364Fax: (852) 2560-6064 E-mail:mailto:info@fhhk.org
联合国世界粮食计划署http://www.wfp.org.cn/ world food program

[1] The Rise of Christianity- pg 92
[2] Rise of Christianity pg. 90
[3] Rise of Christianity pg. 88
[4] Still Dying of Hunger, More Can Be Done to Ease the Toll on Children and Countries. By James T. Morris. Thursday, May 25, 2006; Page A29
[5] Boondock Saints quote


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