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Indifferent Neighbors

I recognize a similarity between the parable of the good Samaritan and that of the rich man and Lazarus. Jesus told the former in answer to the question, "Who is my neighbor?" The latter describes two neighbors separated by a door, with one's luxury in stark contrast to the other's poverty. The teaching of neighborliness is at the heart of being a Christian, for it is enjoined with the great commandment of loving God and men.

The two parables are in a way complementary, in that one focuses on leaders, while the other on ordinary believers. Caring for the brethren is a responsibility of each and every one. Therefore, nobody should say he is too busy to care. The wounded man traveling to Jericho was met by three people, all able to render help. Today, especially in church, there are needy ones among us, but there are many more of us who have the means to help. We are not in a desperate situation where our overstretched resources fill to keep up with a never-ending call for help. The problem lies with our indifference. If we do not even bother to get to know people well, we would be treating the wounded soul next to us as a stranger instead of a neighbor. This would be incompatible with the fact that we are of the same household, and directly conflicts with the charge: "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Gal 6:10).

Knowing our fellow members enhances our ability to help. Many cases of genuine need are not as apparent as a physically wounded victim lying by the wayside. We are talking about an extended family of hundreds, of diverse people who do not simply sound their woes at the top of their voices. Some are of such low profiles that their very existence is unknown to most. How then can we respond to their needs? Of course, at the grassroots, there should be spontaneity in mutual care and concern. Just as a firm cannot afford to have a management at the top that is detached from actual situations governing the market, the church cannot afford to have at its helm a breed of administrators who are more interested in paper than in people. The uncaring attitude of the two religious clerics, a priest and a Levite, has caused uneasiness in many honest church leaders. The parable makes them reflect on their own behavior and conclude that they have not cared enough for the flock. It may not have been that they bypassed anyone whom they knew needed help, but rather the more inconspicuous ones who needed pastoral care. They will seek to be more diligent in knowing the condition of the flock (Prov 27:23), and to draw closer to people in the hopes that they will open themselves to them. I find myself agreeing with the motto of one Christian organization: "Hearts to God. Hands to Men." I am not too certain whether "out of touch" leaders can have their hearts to God, but I am convinced that their hands cannot be to men if their bases are stuck to their seats.

It must be realized that leadership is stewardship (2 Cor 4:5; Lk 12:42), not lordship (1 Pet 5:3). Just as much as others should respect their authority, leaders should recognize their duty. Even the exercise of authority should be according to how duty prompts. To administer affairs without ministering to needs would be a poor discharge of duty. Outside establishments like welfare and counseling services, religious or otherwise, can be easily accessed. It would be a shame to see children of God picking up crumbs that fall from the table of the world because their Father's stewards are not giving them their portions at the time when they have need (Lk 12:42). Jesus did not spare His audience possible embarrassment when in telling the parable, the Samaritan, a despised outsider, played the genuine neighbor to the wounded man.

There is no shortcut to establishing relationships and communication networks in church. It involves time and sacrifice, along with being sensitive, sincere, helpful and genuinely concerned. Caring actions are not manufactured in a factory. The church certainly requires more than standardized care given at births, weddings, and deaths. Cards, gifts and wreaths do not have a heart—only humans do. It is important to consciously take note of?who has been missing from services. It is necessary to regularly check if everything is fine with our members' families, careers, or studies, and to see that these areas do not affect their spiritual lives. The old and the illiterate should receive proper spiritual nourishment, and newly baptized converts proper follow-ups. We should care for people as individuals, not just familiar faces with unfamiliar names.

As for the general congregation, they must replicate the efforts of the leaders so there can be a churchwide atmosphere of familial love. Moses was a good leader, but with a multitude of uncooperative people, there was little he could do. People that make up the congregation must reflect the warm, caring ways of the leaders in order to dispel the callous, indifferent disposition that may exist. God causes the rich and the poor to co-exist (Prov 22:2), and one may not need to look beyond his local church to find poor neighbors. Our Christian duty does not allow us to dress in purple while some brethren are in rags, or to feast in luxury while they desire of our crumbs. True religion is "to visit orphans and widows in their affliction" (Jas 1:27; 2:15-16).

How about the spiritually impoverished? Are we concerned for the salvation of others? Christ abandoned His glory as God in heaven to look into our eternal interests. The Bible exhorts us to have this mind of Christ in looking "not only to (our) own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Phil 2:4). Our imitation of God should be "as beloved children" (Eph 5:1), imitating the Father. As the Father is the "Sun of Righteousness" (Mal 4:2) that shines on us all, we are lamps that brighten the house where we are (Mt 5:15). As the Father is the rain that nourishes our souls (Hos 6:3), we can give a cup of cold water to a thirsty one (Mt 10:42). The Bible promises: "he who waters will himself be watered" (Prov 11:25).If anyone sees his brethren in need and yet closes his heart against him, God's love does not dwell in him ( 1 Jn 3:17). And as for him who has not seen his brother's needs, may this article open his eyes.

Publisher: True Jesus Church