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We meet people everyday. We travel with same people in the train or bus daily to work or perhaps to school and most times their faces become familiar to us. We smile and maybe even exchange phone numbers but are they your friends?
We have many followers on the social media platform and we share our life stories with them, and some of us share our dirty laundry on these platforms as well and some even fight but are these our friends?
How well do we know people who are in our lives? Is their smile and hug real? Do they build you or after talking to them you feel low and confused? Are they your real friends? How well do you know your neighbors, will they come and help you and will you go and help them?
Let us see what Jesus says about true friends/neighbors in the Bible.
Luke 10: 25-37 (NIV); "Is the Parable of the Good Samaritan"- On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus asking Jesus what must he do to inherit eternal life? Jesus asked him, what did he read in the book of the Law, and the smart man replied,‘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.’
Jesus told him that he had answered correctly and Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
Sometimes we meet people who are too smart for their own good and try to test us also. This man went on and asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by 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, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out money 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.”
So who is your neighbor/friend?
The religious leader/the priest/the pastor went right past the injured person and did not stop to help, aah maybe they were running late to church/temple that they missed to practice what they preached-LOVE!
When I read this in the Bible, it reminded me of someone I met in church who told me they were going to help their elderly parents after church as they needed some help, but decided they would go home instead and 'study the Bible' as they wanted to spend 'more time with God', parents could wait.
I stood and listened to their story about their goal to get 'closer to God'.
At the time I did not say anything but as I was walking to my car, I heard the lord say to me, "now that is not the love I speak of in my Word". I asked Him,what did He mean, after all she was going home to read 'His Word'? He reminded me about how he healed a twisted lady on a Sabbath and how the pharisees condemned him for doing so on the Sabbath, the Holy day. LUKE 13:10-15.
He said, He is love. "No point in sitting at home studying my Word if you are not going to live it". His word is love, active love. You can't say to your elderly parents in need or a neighbor who needs you, sorry you had to stay at home to read your Bible and could not help today or that you are running late for church and leave them at risk. Or not stop to get a donkey out of a well!
"If a friend or anyone is in need, you go and help first in the love of Christ, that's my love in action, that is church. That's Sharing Jesus. Like the good Samaritan. He stopped to help."
"The Lord says, you are missing the point of my love. If you think its all about church, and reading the Bible which is very important, but if you are not showing and sharing My Love out there then you are a clanking vessel making lot of religious noise but empty and worthless".
God is love in action. When we accept Him, we are plugged onto Him and He downloads onto us His Agape love and so much so that we should be in overflow. Love and giving should become part of us. Loving is giving, as God gave His son.
Mark,10:42-56 (Jesus heals blind Bartimaeus, the beggar by the roadside a blind beggar who heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth passing by and began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him. But not Jesus. He healed him. Jesus did not say he had a very busy schedule, or that He was on his way to church and running late.
Look at the good Samaritan. He was a busy man on his way perhaps to an important meeting, yet he stopped to show love. He went out of his way to bless a stranger. Why do you think that story ended up in the Bible if it wasn't significant?
Acts, 3: 1-6, Peter and John with the lame man at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate begging alms of those entering the temple. They had nothing to give yet they gave him much more than anyone could give. They gave this man healing and restoration instead, rather than material things or money. They spoke to him in love and he rose up and walkrd, in Jesus Name'.
Ephesians, 2:8-9 "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of you own works, so that no one may boast".
Be grateful that you know the Lord, that you are saved. And now its you and I who must carry on the baton, to bring others to the Lord by love not by hitting them with religion. Only by love we bring others to Christ. Do not boast that you are all holy and righteous, and not practice love. Love is more important than just showing up in church, more important than sitting at home reading the Word, however, doing these are very important and required, but if you do not practice all that you learn in church and read in His Word, and not practice the Love of Jesus, then you are not living by the Love of Christ.
We can easily get caught in being 'religious', going to church, put our hand up and say praise the Lord sister and come home each week. Like that rich man at whose gate Lazarus sat, and that rich man never helped him in any way. Luke, 16:19, "You can speak in tongues and pray for the poor but if you don't show love, don't help, then you are religious, a clanking empty vessel making a lot of noise".
Who is your friend or neighbor?
Is it the one who drinks with you, goes to the movies with you, you lend them money and who eats your food? Is it the one who borrows your clothes, shares your secrets and when you have lost your job, have relationship issues and feel depressed, you have no money and you call these friends and they don't answer their phone?
So who is your friend, who is your neighbor?
We expect people to help us, but are we quick to help other's as well?
"What kind of neighbor are we"?
In this story, we learn that a good neighbor, a good friend will be with us when we are in the hospital, when we are struggling with an illness or life situations, who will not judge us or leave us helpless. Who will say, they will be with us till we get better or till our situation resolves.
In the book of Ruth in the Bible we see a dear friend/neighbor, Ruth, a young girl who had lost her husband and in her pain she plants a seed of love and commitment in her widow mother in laws life. Both these women suffered great losses. Naomi lost not one man but three men in her life, her whole world fell apart. She had lost everything she held close to her heart. Ruth told her mother in law, that she would go with Naomi no matter what. "Ruth said, do not urge me to leave you for wherever you go, I will go, and where ever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death separates you and me".
Ruth is what we are achieving to become and what we expect from others.
When you are going through a crisis, is the best time to know who your neighbor or friends are.
In Proverbs 18:24, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Given the fact that we normally think of blood being thicker than water, is this proverb true that a friend can be more faithful than a brother?
Many translations say that, a person who has many friends, may come into problems. That a large number of friends does not necessarily mean you are loved and that they will always be there for you. Many famous people have rich friends but when they are in trouble, they end up alone in rehab.
We have social media 'friends' promoting superficial connections with people we share our life but are they true friends?
To become a true friend and neighbor to others is by having intimacy with God the Jehovah. When we are connected to Him, only then we find true friends who loves us and forgives us and helps us in the journey with Christ.
God is our true friend, our good neighbor and He expects us to be a good friend, a good neighbor, to love like He does. When we become a servant, we find our purpose. In serving, we find true joy. When we give to those who are not able to pay us back, we are being Jesus to them.
He is the root, we are the vine. Our fruit must speak of the good soil and the root we are grounded in is Jesus.