Category Archives: neighbor
While spending time this week thinking and praying over what to write, I was brought back to a conversation I’d had recently.
I was having a conversation with a friend, on a variety of things when they made a statement that stuck with me. We were talking about some recent decisions they’d made, and they said, “God already knows what I’m going to do and loves me anyways, so why does it matter?” This statement reminded me of another friend who made a similar statement that, “If God wants me to die from COVID, it doesn’t matter if I wear a mask or not.” I’ve actually had several conversations, over the past few weeks, where individuals are relinquishing accountability for their choices to God’s foreknowledge, (and in some cases believed fore-planning) of them. I want to share something with you today, that as I write, I pray it will be received in the spirit which it is intended.
God’s Omniscience does not affect our choices – our relationship with Him does.
Just because God knows us completely and knows all things, knows how we’ll react and respond, this does not excuse us from our accountability for the choices we make. God’s knowledge does not equate to His approval. We cannot absolve ourselves of responsibility on the basis that God knew we’d do it, and He let us do it anyway.
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Romans 6:1-2
God created us in His image, we chose another road. God sent Jesus to die, and redeem that decision, not so we could relinquish responsibility for our choices, bu so we could make better ones. Jesus showed us the way. He showed us how to live. As we read in Romans 6, God’s grace is not a license to drive off a cliff, it’s a get out of jail free card; for the mishaps of life – kind of like your auto insurance company’s accident forgiveness program. It’s there if you need it, but unnecessary if we practice good driving skills.
“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:22-24
We all need accident forgiveness for the things that we’ve done. Here’s the rub, knowing that God knows we’ll do it, and knowing that God will forgive it, does not give us God’s permission for it.
Our choices can’t be ‘blamed’ on Gods foreknowledge and acceptance. That’s like saying it’s a parent’s fault that a child sneaks out of their bedroom at night to steal ice cream. The parent may expect it to happen, they’ve established rules and guidelines so the child knows they should not do it, but in the end the parent also knows that the stomach ache the child may feel in the morning may be the best way for them to learn. As a parent there are choices, I could prevent my child from making, but then how would they learn? Allowing them to make, and learn from their mistakes, does not mean I approve of them, it means I’m giving them the space to learn and grow.
The flip side of this coin however, is that my child’s relationship with me, and my relationship with God, can (and will) affect their choices. Demonstrating the way, reading the Bible and praying with them, teaching them how to make Godly choices, will help them make better choices.
How can we claim to know God, to know Christ and have a relationship with Him, if we don’t know His word? How can we claim to know God’s direction for our lives when we don’t go before Him in prayer? How can we claim to follow Christ when our words and actions degrade, demean and devalue ourselves and others?
Our relationship with God, and His son Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit is the only thing that can influence, affect and change our behaviors. Just like the single greatest influence on our children’s lives is their relationship with us. The single greatest influence on our Christian walk is our relationship with Christ.
We face down decisions every day, now more than ever our choices are so polarized that it seems almost impossible to chose wisely. The world is full of advice on what to do, what to think, how to act, who to believe, which side to chose and which side to hate. We keep looking to the world for answers, mostly because they are easy, plenty and familiar. When the stakes are highest and the decisions hardest we throw our hands in the air and claim, not my responsibility; God planned all this out, He knew what would happen, it’s His will, it’s His decision, doesn’t matter what I do.
Friends, it does matter what you do, you were given a will of your own, a chance to choose God or the World. God’s knowledge of you (like a parent who knows his child) does not absolve you from the responsibility to use the mind soul and strength that He gave you. Yes His grace is sufficient, but it is not an excuse.
Your relationship with Christ is the single largest influence on your choices; it can save, redeem, restore and complete you. Your choices, and the outcome of your life is a product of your relationship with Him. A relationship which is always present, unchanging and available when you decide to turn to Him.
Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change our world!
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“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?”” Luke 10:29
Over the past three months or so this question has popped into my head with both frequency and urgency; who is my neighbor? Does the person screaming profanity in a ‘peaceful’ protest count as my neighbor? Does the individual who posts racist ideas on social media, then incites further controversy with their responses count as my neighbor? Does the politician who touts their integrity to the whole world, then gets indicted for embezzlement and gross negligence count as my neighbor? The short answer is, yes.
Even in this time of highly polarized conversation and opinions, everyone is your neighbor. Scripture is very specific on how we are to treat others; we are to treat them how we would want to be treated. I don’t believe I know anyone who would want to be yelled at, called stupid, demeaned, lied too or beaten. All of us want to be respected, valued, and loved, all of us want to be treated like we matter and are important.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are given so much with regards to how we are to interact with one another. We are reminded of the greatest commandment, “He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and, love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27
Love God, and love others as you love yourself.
Scripture also tells us in Ephesians 4:32 to be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving. In John 15:12 Jesus tells us to love one another as He loved us. In Romans 12:10 Paul tells us to love one another with brotherly affection and to outdo one another in showing honor. We are to bear with one another, build each other up, have one mind, be sympathetic, humble, bless, speak well of, and hold them in higher regard than ourselves.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14
Scripture does not tell us to repay, revile, revenge, slander, cheat, lie, anger, take sides, bear false witness, demean, devalue, crush underfoot, show favoritism, destroy, devour, take pride in division, or gloat over our enemies. It does not!
How much pride do we take in a well landed jab, or in our witty, albeit cruel, sarcasm? Since when do we measure intelligence by how quickly someone can cut down or put someone in their place? Our world is overfull of hateful rhetoric, slanderous jabs, and divisive politicking. I wonder if we even see those on the receiving end of our vulgarity as our neighbors.
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:17-21
There is no excuse, or reason for Christ followers to speak like we are right now. If our neighbor has a different political opinion, that does not make them stupid. If our neighbor does not share our opinion on child rearing or infant baptism or basic traffic laws, that does not make them ignorant, evil, uninformed, or incapable of reason. It simply means they have a different opinion, one that is derived from their lifetime experiences and upbringing. None of this precludes any of them from being our neighbor. In fact, even them being our enemy does not (per scripture) preclude them.
Our witness to the world has never been more tested than now. Nor has it ever been more important.
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 1-:36-37
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