"Am I my brother's keeper?" This may be one of the oldest questions to be asked by a man, and it is one that continues to beg for an answer.
Since Cain killed his brother Abel, the history of mankind is trailed in blood and injustice. On the international scene, a number of questions revolve around this one. How responsible are free nations to those who suffer the oppression of dictatorship? How much intervention is justified when "ethnic cleansing" is being practiced in the smaller nations? Who is responsible for the teaming masses of starving souls around the world? These questions are no more important than those which apply to the many personal issues involving our immediate friends and family every day.
One man had the courage to face this question and answer it. He did not deal with it in mere words, but He solved it with His Life. Then Jesus took this issue even further by giving birth to an entirely new race of people who were to follow in His steps. In these, He placed His abiding Presence and the power of the Holy Spirit, by which they too could end the suffering of others.
When Jesus told His disciples the story of the Good Samaritan, at first they might have felt a bit heavy and overwhelmed. While considering the priest and Levite, who gave themselves excuses for not helping this victim of a violent crime, they were probably reminded of excuses they had used in the past. That was before they met the man Jesus. Now this compelling personality was standing there, commanding them to "go and do likewise. " He made it clear that they were to follow the example of the Good Samaritan, who extended a helping hand to an unfortunate stranger. This was just one of the challenging and difficult statements He had made to them. Somehow, in spite of the fact of His extremely high standard, they found the courage to keep following Him. There must have been a power, a force in His Words themselves, which energized them to go on.
Some of that power must have also come from the example He set, and the life that He lived. Here was a man wholly devoted to the service and salvation of others, but in Him it was not a thing of drudgery and dread. They saw in Jesus a man of sorrows, who understood the depths of their pain, but also someone Who took great joy and satisfaction in lifting burdens from others! No one has ever had more joy than Jesus! He was happiness and fulfillment personified! He was humanity presented as it was truly created to be!
What a glorious day it is to be living in! Never has there been more opportunities for the followers of Jesus to reveal the Love of God to fallen humanity! Not only do we have the inspired, written words of the prophets and apostles, we also have a Living Word, that He has placed in out hearts! The Holy Spirit of God has never really left us for 2000 years, even though we might have forgotten Him. Today He is reviving us to stand up and live in His sight! By the energizing power of the Spirit of God Who lives in us TODAY, we can begin to walk in abundant life through acts of joyous, hilarious giving!
So my friend, how would you answer this question for yourself? Would you turn your back on your brother for whom Christ died? On the other hand, would you take on an enormous weight of guilt and responsibility that would ultimately crush you? Or would you just simply follow our sweet and wonderful Saviour to the Cross, wherein you will find not only freedom and salvation for yourself, but also the compassion and love that Christ has for all. Out of this love springs forth the motivation to give as He gave and to live as He lived. He is no longer a story of a man who died long ago, but a resurrected deliverer, who expresses Himself in acts of kindness and selfless sacrifice every day, through anyone who yields to Him in loving faith and trust.
A Time and a Season
As we come into the holiday season, we are faced with the same questions of the year before. Do the children of God involve themselves in the traditions of the Christmas season, knowing that most of them are rooted in pagan superstitions? How can we honor God and the Living Presence of Jesus Christ amidst the abundance of excesses upon which unbelievers have stamped His Name?
Year after year, I receive teachings in the mail, exposing the origins of the winter solstice celebration, which later became known as the birthday of Jesus Christ. To be frank, I have little interest in what has been done in the past during this season. I can only look about me and hope to discern the will of God for myself in this day. Thankfully, we can be quite certain that the foundation which was laid by the holy apostles and prophets of Christ is still very sound and stable. How fortunate it is for us that we can rest in this confidence.
Jesus and His followers knew only One Law. That is the law of love. His Love both draws us together and keeps us together in Him. It also guards us against error, for whom the Lord loves He disciplines. From that basis, the New Testament was written, to aid us in our focus on the Grace, Truth, Power and Love of God in Jesus Christ.
Much wisdom was granted Paul, the New Testament apostle, for the work he was commissioned to do. He left us some very sound instruction, that could be effectively applied this season. Whether we decorate a tree or not, whether we give gifts on the 25th of December, or we simply treat it as just another day, we should always be compassionate and loving to one another in Christ. In areas of tradition, Paul was very clear: Never judge one another.
Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. (Romans 14:4-5)
Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. (Romans 14:19)
Allow me to suggest that we take advantage of the mention of Christ in this season, and rejoice with Paul in that He is being preached. By His power and grace we will avoid all activities that disgrace Him, while participating in the many that glorify Him. If we give gifts, let it be out of sincerity and kindness, instead of vanity and pride. All sharing must be done in the grace of God, lavishly and freely. But let us all shun the idols of materialism and greed that prevail in this age, knowing that we have the greatest possession of all within us -- the Holy Spirit of God! This season, and every season, we would do well to remember the ageless words of Paul to the Corinthian churches: (1 Corinthians, chapter 13)
" And now I will show you the most excellent way: