December 31, 2017…
I have blogged on The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor since then. That’s not that unusual. If a book has good content, it is easy to put my own personal “spin” on what the author writes about. Mark Labberton certainly has significant content. But chapter after chapter he keeps repeating himself, driving home the point that as Christians we don’t follow the second commandment, you know that one that comes after “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
These five months that I have written about helping my neighbor, I have had mixed feelings. Maybe if you have been reading some of my posts, you have had some of those feelings too.
I have been confronted by my lack of effort to help people who don’t have as much as I do. It is worse than that. I see people who have needs. I hear of people who have needs. I do nothing. Labberton writes about the comfort level that many of us experience. We like our comfort; it insulates us from the anguish that others feel who don’t have enough resources to live. Some don’t have enough food. Some suffer injustice from our legal system and society. Some are used by others and they find themselves at a loss; they don’t know how to extricate themselves from a horrible lifestyle. When he writes about the needs of those in our world and I just burrow down into my comfortable life, closing my eyes to what is right in front of me. . . I feel guilty.
God sent His Son to earth to show us how to live. During His ministry, He spent time with what we would call the “outcasts” of society; prostitutes, lepers, tax collectors… the list goes on and on. Jesus showed us what to do and He confronted the religious leaders of His day by His actions. They had self-righteous attitudes that kept “certain people” at a distance. Those people suffered subjugation so that the “religious leaders” could be seen as more Godly. Then Jesus arrived on the scene with His message “Healthy people don’t need a doctor — sick people do.” Then He added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners” [Matt. 9:12-13]. One of the Pharisees was so bold as to ask Jesus “Who is my neighbor?” He left us with one more crucial commandment: to go into all nations to teach and baptize people [Matthew 28:19-20]. Not just those who think, dress, and act like us. All people, of all nations. As I examine my life and what I do, do I line up with Jesus more or do I line up more with the religious leaders of His day? I am afraid I feel like a hypocrite.
I do this from time to time. Maybe you do. I think about my life and I wonder why I have been given so much when others have been given so little. I have had close friends tell me that I worry too much about things I should not worry about. “Just go with it…” or “play the hand you have been dealt” or “chill David, it will be ok” are some of the typical responses I get from friends and family who say I “overthink” things. But what if God has given me so much so I can help others? Am I failing in my mission in life if I am not using what I have to aid those less fortunate? Wealth is not something that comes to a person because they believe in God. God’s faithful people may be rich or poor. Wealth is also not a sign of God’s favor. In Jesus’ time, a rich man’s wealth was considered a sign that God had rewarded the person and poverty was a sign that God was punishing a person for sin. Jesus came to rebuke such thinking. What did Jesus advocate about wealth? Wealth is a gift that is to be used for service to the Lord. Read Matthew 25, 1 Timothy 6, Mark 10 and Luke 3 and see what the Bible says about generosity, the sin of arrogance, dishonesty and greed. Jesus goes further by saying that wealth can be dangerous. We all know the scriptures so I will just use the phrases that we know but many of us fail to heed: the eye of the camel, serving two masters, gaining the world and forfeiting the soul, and storing up treasures on earth. I feel fear that what I have has distracted me from what I am supposed to do. I use my money to make my life easier. I turn my back on the needs of others. I fear I am turning my back on God.
Do you have that fear?
No matter what your station in life, Pastor Labberton says the survival of the fittest mentality greatly influences us. We look after our own survival first. He admits that acknowledging our limitations is a reasonable approach to helping our neighbors. We can only do so much.
I am going to finish my thoughts about Pastor Labberton’s book. It won’t be easy. In fact it will be hard. Poor, poor David.
Thirty-one more pages of confrontation.
Thirty-one more pages of looking into my mirror.
Thirty-one more pages of not liking what I am seeing.