Good Neighbor

As I sit and ponder
     the things Jesus taught.
I like to consider
     that I do what I ought.
About His commandments,
     if the point He should raise.
Would I say I have followed
     them all of my days?
To care for my neighbor
     as He says I should.
Would I ask who that is,
     thinking I’m pretty good?

Jesus tells us a story
     of a man just like me.
He lived a good life
     but he wanted to see.
So he went to ask Jesus
     and to Him he did call.
Which of the commandments
     is the greatest of all?
Jesus turned it back to him,
     the question he sought.
And the man answered rightly
     with what he’d been taught.

But the man wasn’t happy
     with the answer he got.
So he raised a new question,
     who’s a neighbor, who’s not?
Jesus tells him a story
     of a man who is hurt.
He is beat up and robbed,
     left to die in the dirt.
The “good” folks do pass him
     as they make their path wide.
Then a Samaritan helps him
     and gives him a ride.

At the end of the story,
     Jesus turns the question around.
Who was the neighbor
     to the man on the ground?
As the man answers Jesus,
     the point he does get.
The one that’s a neighbor
     made sure needs were all met.
So what will you do
     when you think you’re that good?
Will you live like a neighbor
     to all as you should?

I’ve been praying lately about my response to situations and seeking wisdom in giving proper responses, not ones simply designed to justify myself. This poem came from a combination of those prayer times and the time I’m spending in the gospel of Luke for the sermon series I am preaching. I pray that this ministers to you and I in the way God desires for it to.

In prayer,

Brotherly Advice: How to ACT (James 2)

Brotherly Advice:  A Study Through the Book of James

There are times in life when we could all use a little advice.  I pray that you have people in your life that you can go to for wise, godly counsel when your way seems uncertain.  Many times we have a brother or sister, whether biological or spiritual, that has already been down the road we’re travelling and is equipped to help us along our journey.

For me, the book of James is one of those methods God uses to pass along some brotherly advice.  Most scholars seem to be in agreement that the person writing down the words in the book of James is James, the brother of Jesus.  Here’s a guy that grew up around Jesus yet did not believe through most, if not all, of the life of Jesus on earth.  Yet eventually James came around and believed that Jesus was more than a brother, He was the Son of God! 

James concluded chapter one with some advice on what God considers pure and faultless religion.  It has a lot to do with the actions that flow out of our heart.  Here in chapter two, he gives us some great advice on how to ACT! 

  • Advice about Accepting:  How do you treat people you don’t know — or even those you do know?  What determines the level of interaction you have with them?  It is far to easy to make  judgments about people based on their outward appearance because that is what is most apparent.  It takes a deliberate effort for most of us to be able to see a person and take the time to really know them.  The advice James would give us is to open our eyes and see each person as God does!  We must stop showing favoritism and giving special treatment to someone just because they look like they could benefit us.  We must quit looking down on people and treating them like second-class citizens simply because they don’t appear to have anything to offer us.  As a Christian culture, we have gotten very good at recognizing and applauding those who look just right, talk, just right, and act just right.  We are quick to invite them in, to lift them up, and to shower them with praise  all the while ignoring, putting down, and even mocking those who don’t look, talk, or act just like us.  Unfortunately, that is the way the world works — not the way God’s people ought to work.  As God moves you along in your journey with Him, take some brotherly advice from James on how to ACT and grow in your attitude and action of Accepting. 
  • Advice about Commandments:  Sometimes we struggle with accepting people because we need to have a better understanding of the advice James gives about Commandments.  It has been said that most Christians are not so much against sin as we are against people who sin differently than we do.  When it comes to the commandments, James tell us we are all equal — if we’ve broken one point of the law then we are guilty of all of it.  Call it what we like, God makes it clear that the favoritism — the lack of accepting — that we engage in is sin!  We must stop acting like we are better than anyone else and start acting as one who has been shown mercy.  To be clear, James doesn’t advise us to ignore the commands of God, only to see ourself accurately in light of them and in our inability to keep them perfectly.    We are able to grow in the way we ACT toward others when we have a Biblical view of God’s Commands and the level field we are all on .
  • Advice about Touching:  We live in a time where there is so much concern about inappropriate touch that we need some good brotherly advice about Touching.  Unless we choose to be oblivious, we are faced with the needs of people on a regular basis.  As Christians, that need ought to touch our heart in a way that calls for some kind of response.  James calls us to examine both what we say and what we do to see if they match.  To wish someone to be fed and clothed is not a bad thing.  To pray that God would supply their every need is always appropriate.  For most Christians, those are not hard responses.  The trouble comes when God calls us to be a part of the very answer to the prayer we just prayed.  When it is time for  our talk to hit the road and reach out to touch those in need.  James tells us that our claim of faith in God has absolutely no value if it doesn’t drive us to do something with that faith.  I believe that in the context of chapter two, James is calling us out on our refusal to touch the lives of people who both live differently than us and sin differently than us.  If our faith in Jesus is alive, it will be touching people at their point of need.  As we live life on the basis of our faith in God, we must take the brotherly advice from James on how to ACT so that we will step up and touch people with the living and active love of Jesus.

So, how are you doing with the brotherly advice on how to ACT that James would pass along?  As you move from where you are to where God wants you to be, do you listen to the advice about Accepting?  Are you open to recognizing, and responding to, the advice given about God’s Commandments?  Are you living your life in such a way that you have taken the advice about Touching and look for ways to serve and meet needs?  I pray that you will pay close attention to the brotherly advice James wants you to hear so that you would know how God wants you to ACT!