Loving Impartially

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbour as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” –James 2:8-9 (NIV)

Who is my neighbour? For the Jewish expert in the Law, who asked this question in the tenth chapter of Luke, it was not only just fellow Jews, but those Jews who followed the Law of Moses to the letter. However, the Jewish teacher’s idea of who qualified as his neighbour was far too narrow according to God’s standards. Jesus, through His Parable of the Good Samaritan, revealed to the Pharisee that his neighbour was not just the people who looked and talked like him, but also those he had absolutely no intention of interacting with. Jews viewed Samaritans as heretics who defiled the Jewish faith by mixing it with Greek religion and philosophy. Naturally, the Samaritans resented this and both parties would do as much as possible to avoid contact with each other. Jesus, by illustrating the picture of a Samaritan helping a Jew in his time of need, was clear in His message; and it wouldn’t have sounded pleasing at all to the ears of the time.

Are there people in our lives whom we refrain from showing the love of God? We could be perfectly warm and charming people around those whom we deem worthy of our concern, but cold and antagonistic towards those who for whatever reason are contemptible in our eyes. However, Christ’s love knows no boundaries. He loves each and every individual on this Earth for we all bear the image of God, despite the fact that we are all equal before Him in our sin. His love does not pick favourites for He never said that His redemptive sacrifice was reserved for a select few. It was meant for all, regardless of who they were, who would come before Him with hearts full of humility; yearning to see sin’s hold on them broken and their relationship with God restored. If we are selective in our love towards others, then we have failed to understand God Himself and what it means to follow Him. Our righteousness and piety is meaningless if the love of Christ is not paramount in our lives. When we allow the Holy Spirit to invade our hearts and impart to us the love of Christ, we will be able to see everyone around us as being equal under His unconditional love and equally deserving of His grace.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

We Are Never Forgotten

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.” –Luke 12:6 (NIV)

When modern cities first began to appear, one social problem that emerged was that people began to experience feelings of isolation and loneliness.  It would seem to be a paradox. How can one feel alone when surrounded by a sea of people? But the sheer size of these urban areas made many, who were used to the intimacy and familiarity common amongst those who lived in rural areas, feel like a mere drop in the ocean. Conditions at work only seemed to solidify such attitudes. Life in the rapidly expanding factories of the city was squalid, harsh, demanding, and mundane; with workers feeling more like cogs in the industrial machine rather than individual human beings. In the face of such conditions, quite a number turned to crime in hopes of finding a sense of brotherhood and belonging; using the anonymity of being in a large city to their advantage. Others, separated from family and friends and living in such desperate conditions, succumbed to depression and suicide. Although much has been done to rectify such attitudes and problems in the past two centuries, they have not disappeared entirely.

We yearn for human companionship. God, because He works in community with the Son and the Holy Spirit, has created within us this same need for relationship with others. However, even when we are surrounded by people, our search continues to prove fruitless. We want someone who will stand by us regardless of the situation and who will genuinely care for our struggles and seek to see us through them. When we fail to find such people, it is easy to feel that we are forgotten. But what a friend we have in Jesus! If He cares for the sparrow’s every need, how much more will He care for us as human beings who all bear His image? He seeks to have a relationship with us; loving us so much that He Himself died for our sins so that the gap of sin that separated us from Him would be bridged. He came down to Earth to experience what we as individual humans experience and thus can empathize with our struggles. When we have Christ as our friend living within us, we will never feel alone or neglected knowing that He will rejoice with us in our delight and mourn with us in our grief. Moreover, He wants to actively be a part our lives towards our benefit; so that if we willingly take His counsel we may live in true fulfilment and spared from regret. Human relationships will come and go, but God is eternal. What a privilege and blessing it is to have a friend who will stand by us both now and into eternity!

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Bringing About Peace

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” –Matthew 5:9 (NIV)

September 1938 was a tense time in Europe. Under Hitler, Nazi Germany had invaded the Sudetenland; an ethnically German region belonging to Czechoslovakia. As the prospect of war loomed across the continent, the British Prime Minister at the time, Neville Chamberlain, met with Hitler in Munich. In keeping with the general rule of appeasement which characterized European foreign policy in the years between 1918 and 1939, Chamberlain returned to Britain with a compromise in hand. Under the terms of the Munich Agreement, Germany was allowed to annex the Sudetenland on the condition that Hitler and the Nazi state would promise to cease their expansionist designs. Chamberlain proclaimed to the cheering British crowds that the agreement had brought “peace for our time”.

However, only a few months later, Hitler completely disregarded the Munich Agreement and invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia in March 1939. At this point Chamberlain, along with the rest of the democracies of Europe, realized the failure of appeasement to check German expansionism and resolved to deal with Hitler by force should the trend continue. When Hitler invaded Poland on September 1st, 1939, Britain and France declared war two days later; triggering a war that, although would be bloodiest in the history of mankind, would also see the destruction and widespread condemnation of fascism and ultra-nationalism.

Often we get confused over what it really means to be a peacemaker. In our minds, a peacemaker is someone who makes sure the peace is achieved through the maintenance of the status quo. As long as we don’t get on anyone’s bad sides, we have done our duty in maintaining peace; even if means ignoring serious issues that lie at the root of the conflicts we have to deal with. But this is not what it means to be a peacemaker. The role of a true peacemaker is to form a lasting peace by tackling the crux of issues; not simply dealing with mere symptoms. Just as how Christ came to redeem the world by addressing the problem of sin, we as His children must also be willing to address the source of the conflicts we have been called to intervene in.

Doing so always comes at a price. In order that the problem of sin may be finally solved and humanity freed from its chains, Christ had to die and rise again. The penalty for sin was death. Only by His willing sacrifice on the Cross for all of our transgressions, could that penalty be met. Likewise, to be a true peacemaker we will have to give of our time and energy; continuously opening ourselves emotionally and spiritually in order to speak truth and wisdom even when we are rejected and rebuffed by the very people we want to help. It might not always be the most comfortable and pleasant thing to do, but it is a worthy price to pay for God’s truth and peace to flourish. People will know if we are His children by the way we solve conflicts. Only by staying close to Christ and relying on Him for wisdom, strength, and discernment, can we be the peacemakers He has called us to be.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.