Relationship Between Neighbors
AUDIO TEACHING ABOVE STUDY NOTES BELOW
The questions we’re dealing with in this Bible study here have to do with relationships between neighbors. Basically we’re looking at how to love, help, and relate to our neighbors of other religions; or we could also sum it up as how we are commanded to love, help, and relate to those who are not worshippers of the true Jesus of the Bible.
I trust this study will only basically confirm to those in the Working Faith Fellowships what they already basically know, and are already doing, because this is an aspect of loving God and keeping His commandments which you already believe in and I trust are seeking to do now anyways.
So we have a basic obligation to all people, as we are commanded to honor all men in 1 Peter 2:17- since we see clearly in James 3:9 that the image of God is still in every man in general, even lost sinners. And with that, every man has a conscience that, despite the fact that it can be twisted and seared, our behavior should be such that it will be commended to the remainder of their conscience which is yet intact and operating right. The Apostles in 2 Cor 4:2 described their honest, upright walk and ministry as “commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”
Consider what Jesus said in Matthew 5:16 about letting your light shine before men, that they might see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. We know that deliberately doing deeds which in themselves might be commendable, with the goal of being seen of men and getting their praise, is something that hypocrites do. Yet being faithful to God means loving your neighbor as yourself- and doing that consistently without seeking the praise of men yet leaves us in situations that when we are faithfully, consistently doing what is right before God, our light will definitely shine before men.
Think of Global Mission’s theme verse , James 1:27. To have pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father we need to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction- no doubt regardless of whether they are faithful Christians or idol worshippers or Atheists or whatever they are. And obviously that statement in James 1:27 is a summary of meeting the needs of the needy that we see and are able to meet. Remember John the Baptist in Luke 3 telling the people what they needed to do in response to their questions about what they should do in order to flee from the wrath to come, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, and to work righteousness. Of the many things he told them, in Luke 3:11 he basically said if you have extra clothing, give it to someone who needs clothing; likewise if you have extra food, give it to those who need food. And no doubt, this is related to what God had already spoke in the Old Testament. We see in Isaiah 58 how God spoke about the fast which He has chosen, which in the context are things that God sees as more necessary and more important than fasting; things which if we don’t do there’s no point in even fasting, since to obey is better than sacrifice. In that chapter we see how God commands that we seek justice for the oppressed and falsely imprisoned, that we satisfy the hungry, that we clothe the naked, that we bring the homeless into our homes, that we generally meet the needs of the afflicted. Remember the Good Samaritan in Luke chapter 10. ALL PEOPLE are our neighbors and when we see our neighbor in trouble and/or need, we do whatever is in our power to meet his or her need and help them out of their trouble. It may be stopping a beating or some other attack, it may be calling the police and waiting with someone we find who has been attacked or who has fallen down injured, it may be making sure a lost child finds their parent or at least gets somewhere safe until their parents seek them, it may be offering a job to someone who has lost theirs and really wants to work if you’re a business owner. It may just be giving someone directions who is lost.
And of course there are those who try to excuse their inaction by saying that there are lazy people and drunks and stuff like that who put themselves into a mess which it isn’t appropriate to just get them out of. And no doubt we want to be aware of enabling someone in their sin who has chosen an unrighteous and self-destructive lifestyle. But many on the other hand have just fallen on hard times and it could be us in their shoes. The righteous seek to help and seek to give while also being wise and using discretion. Psalm 112:5 “A good man sheweth favor, and lendeth; he will guide his affairs with discretion.”
Consider as we look at these things that we are also hitting at what Jesus meant when He said to love your enemies. The obligations that we have towards the needs of people in general don’t change when the one in need is our enemy. God makes His sun rise on the evil and the good; He sends rain on the just and on the unjust. There is a basic good will and a basic willingness to help the needy and the afflicted that should be constant towards all people, even when they are our enemies. Some people actually misinterpret Jesus so that they make their enemies’ happiness a higher priority than righteousness and a higher priority than the needs of others. An example is that they might see a criminal harming someone and not fight with the criminal. But that is actually hating the victim and being complicit with evil. But if it’s your enemy being attacked by a criminal, then you’re properly applying what Jesus said about loving your enemies when you defend your enemy who is being victimized by a criminal.
In relating to our neighbors we should be harmless towards them while also not partaking in their idolatry and sin in any way. We see Jesus described in Hebrews 7:26 as “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners…” You actually can’t be harmless towards towards anyone without also being holy and undefiled and separate from sinners in the sense of not partaking in, approving of nor justifying them in their sin. You might work with or around unbelievers and you can be friendly , tell an innocent joke, be easy to get along with overall, not picky nor overbearing, be someone they know they can talk to if they are having trouble who will listen to them and not scorn them. Yet at the same time when idolatry, fornication, uncleanness comes up you have to distance yourself- if you can’t reprove it you’ve got to walk away, harden your face and look away so people will know you cannot partake of this and you show zero approval of it.
And this must be possible to all balance by the grace of God because commanded what He commanded in 2 Cointhians 6:14-18 (read it). And He also commanded what He did in Romans 12:16-21 (read it); and you see this come together so well then in Romans 13. In verses 1 to 6 we see how God-ordained authority and actions consistent with authority which is in line with God’s Law is an avenue of vengeance on this earth when it is not possible to live peaceably with all men. You can defend your home when it is violently attacked and nothing else can be done, you can call the police. You have a duty to. And this is consistent with the duty which we have towards all men to love them and to in now way defraud them nor in any way be the cause of any situation where it is not possible to live peaceably. If they try to harm you or force you to participate in their false religion or in some other way instigate evil, then they are the cause, right? Romans 13:7-13 (read it)
A few more things that I thought to add here. When we are employees of anyone, believer in Christ or not, we are commanded to be faithful, diligent, and not to defraud our employer by being lazy. As in all these things, we need to do this to be righteous ourselves as well as for the sake of having a good Christian testimony. No one should be able to look at us at discount our testimony due to our behavior or a bad work ethic. 1 Timothy 6:1-2 (read) Colossians 3:22-25 (read) and then read Colossians 4:1 In a lot of ways the employee-employer relationship parallels the child-parent relationship. There are aspects about that relationship which we never outgrow; it is a foundation for life in many aspects.
Just a quick word about preaching to those in false religions. The Apostles and those trained by them had a way of proclaiming the truth of God and the excellencies of the true God and showing how idolatry/false religion is incompatible with the worship of the true God- while also not beating up the false religion more than they had to in order to prove what they had to prove and never going into the realm of railing nor unnecessary provocation. We can’t learn from anyone better than the Apostles among the idolaters of heathen nations.
Read: Acts 14:7-18, Acts 17:15-31, Acts 19:23-29 and 19:35-37
You guys at the Working Faith Fellowships know more about this than I do, but those are some Bible passages I think of in relation to confronting false religion.
Galatians 6:10 shows how special obligation to other Christians in no way lessens our obligations towards all men and the need to do them good as we have opportunity.
Whenever we can use combine practical help and ways to do justly and show mercy towards others with preaching the gospel to them, or when such things work out to be an appropriate springboard to share the gospel with others, this is golden.
So if that all sounds like review, yeah, we knew that, then that’s good. No need to overcomplicate things. But always good to review and focus on the most important things; and this question is sure an opportunity to do that and I think it did me good to analyze it and share this. Micah 6:8 (read)
It’s an honor as it always has been. Blessings to you brethren. May the Lord lead us to hold to what we are following, to recover anything related to this that we’ve lost, and to have more wisdom to better in these things and live them out in a way that is more excellent as we go forward.
-Bro Aaron can be reached at [email protected]