Prodigals, Sinners, Beggars & the Injured

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle written by James unto the twelve tribes which were scattered. More specifically today’s passage is found in the second and third chapters of this New Testament epistle. “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fina apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, You sit here in a good place, and say to the poor man, You stand there, or, Sit here at my footstool, have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, Do not commit adultery, also said, Do not murder. Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:1-13).

 

            “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, Depart in peace, be warmed and filled, but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith without works and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble. But do you want to know. O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which says, Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:14-26).

 

            “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bride the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and b lasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind . But no man can tame the tongue. It is an u burly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh” (James 3:1-12).

 

            “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:13-18).

 

            When you come to the second and third chapters of the New Testament epistle written by James unto the twelve tribes which were scattered you will find three incredibly powerful truths contained within them. Upon reading the words presented within these chapters you will find James beginning to write about showing partiality and favoritism in the house of the living God. In fact James actually admonishes the twelve tribes of Israel to not hold the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ—the Lord of glory—with partiality. He then goes on to speak of a contrast within their assemblies when one enters their assembly with gold rings, in fine apparel and a poor man who comes in filthy clothes. James contrasts their paying attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and invite him to sit in a good place while speaking unto the poor man and instructing him to stand there or sit at their footstool. James immediately declares this as showing partiality among themselves and how such actions demonstrate their becoming judges with evil thoughts. If you continue reading within these chapters you will find in the second half of the second chapter James writing and speaking unto them concerning the need for the demonstration and manifestation of faith. After just writing unto and admonishing them about showing favoritism and partiality in the house of the living God James now turns his attention to the tremendous and incredible need for faith to have directly linked and intrinsically connected to it works. For James one might show their faith without works and he would show them his faith by his works. Moreover James would go on to emphatically declare that just as the body without the spirit is dead so also faith without works is dead. What an incredible truth this truly is when you take the time to think about it for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding showing partiality in the house of God while perhaps even at the same time ignoring the need for the demonstration and manifestation through works and through actions.

 

            If you continue reading these two chapters found within this New Testament epistle you will find James go on to write and speak concerning the tongue. James would begin the third chapter by admonishing his audience that not many of them ought to become teachers knowing that teachers would receive a stricter judgment. James goes on to write and declare how we all stumble in many things but how anyone who does not stumble in word is a perfect man who is also able to bridle the whole body. Immediately following this James writes how bits are put in horses’ mouths that they might obey man and therefore their whole body can be turned. Immediately following this James also appeals to the ships of the sea and describes how although they are so large and driven by fierce winds they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Building upon the example of the bits we put in horses mouth and rudders on large ships James then emphatically declares that the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. James writes and speaks of how great a forest a little fire kindles and how the tongue is a fire and a world of iniquity. The tongue—according to James—is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of nature. James also goes on to write how the tongue—despite its smallness in size—is set on fire by hell itself. Building upon this all the more James declares that every kind of beast and bird, or reptile and creature of the sea is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. Despite this truth, however, the emphatic declaration is made that no man can tame the tongue for it is an untruth evil full of deadly poison. With the tongue we not only bless our God and Father but we also curse men who were and have been made in the similitude or likeness of God.

 

            In the final verses of the third chapter James writes unto his audience and asks them who was wise and understanding among them. James then appeals to them by letting those who were wise and understanding among them show by good conduct that their works are done in the meekness of wisdom. James goes on to write and declare unto them how if they have bitter envy and self-seeking in their hearts they ought not boast and therefore lie against the truth. This wisdom which James wrote and spoke about does not descend from above but is earthly, sensual and demonic. If there is bitter envy and self-seeking within the heart of a man or woman that man or woman is in danger of a wisdom that does not descend from heaven above and instead is earthly, sensual and demonic. James goes on to write and declare that where envy and self-seeking exist confusing and every evil thing are present in those places. This is something which warrants strong consideration on our parts for it calls and draws our attention to whether or not there is bitter envy and self-seeking within our own hearts. What’s more is that James directly contrasts this earthly, sensual and demonic wisdom with the wisdom which is from above and is heavenly and spiritual. James writes how the wisdom which is from  above is first pure, then peaceable and gentle, is willing to yield, is full of mercy and good fruits and is without partiality and hypocrisy. Essentially that which James writes in the final verses of the third chapter is the summation or conclusion of what he had written in both sections of the second chapter of this epistle as well as the opening section of the third chapter. Not only this but James goes on to write how the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make pace—something each and every saint of God and professing disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ ought to recognize and understand.

 

            Having provided a brief introduction and summary of the different sections and passages within these two chapters I find it absolutely necessary to begin this writing by addressing and speaking to the words James wrote in the opening verses of the second chapter. In the second chapter of this epistle we find James writing unto the twelve tribes of Israel concerning the holding of the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ—the Lord of glory—with partiality. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for I am convinced absolutely every professing Christian and disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ is capable of showing favoritism and partiality within the house of the living God. James writes and provides an example of one who enters among them with gold rings and in fine apparel as well as one who enters among them wearing filthy clothes. Oh I can’t help but think about this poor one who entered in among them and how in addition to their entering in filthy clothes they might have also entered dirty and perhaps even smelling from lack of hygiene and even from being unable to to find adequate locations to relieve themselves. These individuals might enter in among us looking nothing like what we are used to in the house of the living God and might not enter carrying a copy of the Torah or a leather bound New Kings James Bible with or without a carrying case. These individuals might not be polished, neatly trimmed and even cleaned from head to toe because they live their lives on the streets. Oh having working in both the city of Philadelphia as well as the city of Boston I have seen plenty of such individuals who were not only dressed in filthy clothes but who were also dirty from head to toe and who even carried a distinct odor and scent to them because of their living conditions.

 

            NOT EVERYONE IS POLISHED! NOT EVERYONE IS CLEAN! NOT EVERYONE LOOKS LIKE YOU! NOT EVERYONE HAS THE SAME RESOURCES AS YOU! Oh as I sit here this morning thinking about and considering these words I find myself wondering what I would do if such an individual entered into the house of the living God among us. How would I personally respond if there entered in among the house of God where I worship God together with others one who was dressed in filthy clothes? Would I be one who somehow ignored, despised and/or even rejected that particular individual? Would I choose to be like the priest and the Levite who passed by the one who was beaten, robbed and left to die on the side of the road or would I be like the Samaritan who chose to stop and pour oil and wine in that one’s wounds, lay him on his own donkey and not only bring him to an inn where he could be cared for and taken care of but also offered to pay for any additional costs that might be associated with his care. Oh I can’t help but be reminded of the words which our Lord spoke which the apostle Matthew recorded for us in the twenty-fifth chapter of the gospel narrative which he wrote concerning the life and ministry of Jesus. It is in this particular passage we find Jesus speaking of that last and final day when the Son is seated upon the throne and the sheep are separated from the goats—the sheep separated on His right side while the goats are separated on the left side. Before going on any further I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention—first to the words which our Lord Himself spoke to His disciples on the mount called Olives as well as the parable which Jesus spoke to that one who wanted to justify himself by asking who his neighbor was. Consider if you will the following words which are found in each of these passages beginning with the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:

 

            “When the Son of man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And he will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you? Or when did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you? And the King will answer and say to them, Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my b retired, you did it to me. Then He will also say to those on the left hand, Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take me in, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. Then they also will answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you? Then He will answer them, saying, Assuredly, I say to you, Inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the lease of these, you did not do it to me. And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:31-46).

 

            “And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said to him, What is written in the law? What is your reading of it? So he answered and said, You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. And He said to him, You have answered rightly; do this and you will live. But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, And who is my neighbor. Then Jesus answered and said: A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you. So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves? And he said, He who showed mercy on him. Then Jesus said to him, Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:25-37).

 

            It is absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found within these passages of Scripture for within them we find Jesus instructing and commanding the goats—those who He separated on His left—to depart from Him into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. It’s important to note that the underlying reason for Jesus instructing these to depart into everlasting torment was not because of doctrine, was not because of what they believed, was not because they didn’t go to church, was not because they didn’t read their Bibles, was not because they did not pray, was not even because they did not fellowship together with others saints and believers. The sole reason for the goats being instructed to depart from Jesus and enter into the everlasting torment and fire reserved for the devil and his angels was simply and solely based on their treatment of the Lord Jesus Christ. What makes this all the more intriguing when you take the time to think about it is when you consider the fact that Jesus wasn’t actually in the flesh among them as He was nearly two-thousand years ago when He took upon Himself the seed of Abraham and flesh and blood. The sole reason why the Lord Jesus commanded and instructed these who were separated to His left was because of what they DIDN’T do unto these the least of these. What’s more is that when you read the words which are found in these passages of Scripture you will find that although Jesus wasn’t present in the flesh and blood as He was two-thousand years ago He was still just as present in “the least of these” as He was when He came in the flesh and walked among us upon the earth. It’s absolutely necessary and imperative for us to recognize and understand that whatever we do or do not do unto the least of these we demonstrate toward or against the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus made it very clear that whatever we did or did not do for or against these individuals we did unto Him and therefore treated Him.

 

            With this in mind I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle John wrote in the first epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Ephesus. The apostle John—you will recall—was one of the original twelve disciples who walked with and followed the Lord Jesus and actually heard the parable He spoke concerning the Good Samaritan as well as the words which Jesus spoke at the mount called Olivet when He spoke of the separation of the sheep and the goats. The apostle John—when writing unto the saints which were at Ephesus—wrote a great deal about love. Moreover the apostle John not only wrote a great deal about love but he also wrote a great deal about loving our neighbors as ourselves. Undoubtedly the apostle John remembered the words which the Lord Jesus Himself spoke concerning love—specifically the words which we find in the thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth chapters of the gospel account which he himself wrote. When writing this first epistle written unto the Ephesian believers the apostle John undoubtedly remembered the words which the Lord Jesus had spoken unto them time and again concerning loving their neighbor as themselves. What’s more is not only did the apostle John hear the Lord instruct them to love their neighbor as themselves but He would also instruct them to love their enemies without equivocation, without reservation and without hesitation. As he wrote this first epistle written unto the saints which were at Ephesus the apostle John did indeed write unto them of love and how they were commanded—not by man but by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself—to love. In fact the entire first epistle written by the apostle John unto these saints is centered upon two distinct truths and realities within the heart(s) and lives of the saints of God and those who profess to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ—belief and love. Having written this I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the following words which are found in the third chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle John beginning with the tenth verse:

 

           

In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderers has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, because He laid down his life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him. My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment” (1 John 3:10-23).

 

Please pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for within this section of Scripture the apostle John admonishes the saints to lay down their lives for the brethren in response to the Lord Jesus who laid His life down for us. This would be followed by the apostle John asking a very pointed and powerful question of this readers and audience. The apostle John speaks of those who has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need and shuts up his heart from him—how does the love of God abide within him. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for when you read the epistle written by James unto the twelve tribes of Israel you will find in stark contrast to catering to the rich who enter in among then while despising, ignoring, ostracizing and marginalizing the poor who also enter in among them. James writes and speaks unto them of showing partiality and favoritism toward the rich who enter in among them while at the very same time ignoring, despising and rejecting the poor who would enter in among them. What makes this all the more intriguing when you take the time to consider it is when you read the Old Testament study both the Law and the prophets you will find the living and eternal God had a people within a people. While it was indeed true the children of Israel were indeed the apple of the eye there was another people within that people who had the affection and attention of the living God. If you take the time to read the words which are found in the Old Testament Law and the prophets you will find continual admonition and instruction to look after and care for the poor, the orphans and the widows among them. The living and eternal God continually admonished the children of Israel how they were to care for and look after the orphans, the widows and the poor who were among them and even the sabbath days and the shemitah and the year of Jubilee would directly impact the poor, the orphans and the widows among them as it would be a time when they would be cared for in an even greater measure by the living and eternal God.

 

I sit here today thinking about these words and how absolutely incredible they truly are for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the need to look after, care for and love the poor who are among us. I am convinced that when we think about and speak of our neighbor and loving our neighbor as ourselves we must needs recognize and understand that loving our neighbor does not exclude the poor who enter in among us. We would like to think that loving our neighbor means those who regularly attend our church services and who enter into our houses of worship and yet the truth of the matter is that this simply is not the case. When we think and speak about loving our neighbor as ourselves we must needs recognize that this does in fact include loving the poor who enter in among us. What’s more is that this requires us to love the poor who enter in among us regardless of whether or not they come in dressed in filthy clothes, are dirty from head to toe, smell like alcohol, smell like marijuana or cigarettes or even smell of body odor. I personally think and feel there are many among us within the house of the Lord who think and feel that loving our neighbor only means loving those who worship together with us in the house of the Lord and that’s it. I am absolutely convinced that loving our neighbor includes—and perhaps even more so—the poor and the destitute which are among us.

 

The more I read the words which are found in the second chapter of the epistle written by James unto the twelve tribes which were scattered abroad the more I am brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth that showing partiality and favoritism as well as having faith without works are intrinsically linked and connected. It was the apostle John who wrote unto his readers and audience admonishing them to not love in word or in tongue only but in deed and in truth. The words which the apostle John wrote must be carefully considered for they call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the need to love with deeds and to love with action. I am absolutely convinced that just as faith demands works so also love demands action. The first and greatest commandment given unto man is to love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength and yet the outworking and overflow of that love is our loving our neighbors as ourselves. Our love for the one true and living God demands by its very nature the loving of our neighbor as ourselves. It is absolutely impossible to separate loving the LORD our God from loving our neighbor for even the apostle John addresses this within this first epistle. The apostle John wrote unto these saints and asked them how they could declare they loved God whom they haven’t seen if they can’t even and don’t even love their neighbor and brother whom they do see. For the apostle John it was contradictory to proclaim and profess one’s love for the living God while hating, despising or otherwise not loving our brother or neighbor who we do see. For the apostle John our love for God was and is best demonstrated in our loving our neighbor as ourselves and loving our brother and sister whom we see week in and week out.

 

            The words presented in the first epistle written by the apostle John not only addresses the truth surrounding our need to love in deed and action over and above loving in word and tongue only but it also addresses the truth that the single greatest demonstration of our love for the living and eternal God is by, through and how we love our neighbor as ourselves. Whether or not we love our brother, our neighbor and even our enemies is a powerful demonstration and reflection of whether or not we truly love the living and eternal God. Just as the tongue and the words which proceed forth from our mouth is the barometer and litmus test of the condition of our hearts so also is our love for others the barometer and litmus test for our love which we profess to have for and toward the living God. Even Jesus Himself declared unto the disciples that it would be by and through the love we had one for another that men would know that we were His disciples. Oh based on this reality I am absolutely convinced there is a strong and intrinsic link that exists between loving our neighbor as ourselves and faith manifesting itself by and through our works. I am convinced that loving the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul and with all our strength is directly connected to the faith within our hearts and spirits while loving our neighbor as ourselves is directly connected to the works which James spoke of. What’s more is that we must recognize and acknowledge that we have indeed and have in fact been called to be those who not only love in word and tongue only but those who love in deed and action. There are many among us who think and feel they can love in word and in tongue and simply speak blessing unto those who are in need without accepting any responsibility to demonstrate both love and works. What’s more is there are countless men and women among us who feel as though they can somehow absolve and/or abscond themselves from any type of social responsibility to those who are before and all around them. There are men and women among us who think and feel as though they are somehow exempt and immune from loving their neighbor as themselves and are somehow excused from a life of works in the midst of this generation.

            I read the words which are found in the second chapter of the epistle written by James and I am brought face to face with the truly wonderful and powerful truth that we as the saints of God and we who profess to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ cannot claim such realities within our lives while at the same time showing partiality and favoritism among us. I continue to think about the parable Jesus delivered unto that one who sought to justify himself concerning his neighbor. This lawyer sought to justify himself based on the question of who was his neighbor rather than how he himself would and could have been a neighbor to others. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for we play a very dangerous game when we focus on who can be a neighbor to us rather than how we can be a neighbor unto others. What’s more is that when you consider what has been known as “The Golden Rule” you will find Jesus instruct and command His disciples and the multitude to do unto others as they would have others do unto them. Please note that Jesus didn’t instruct them to do unto as others as others had already done unto them. Their treatment of others was not based on how they themselves had been treated but rather how they would like and prefer to be treated. There is a danger we face for us to want to do unto others as they have done unto us and yet Jesus instructed us to do unto others as we would want them to do unto us—even if they haven’t and/or wouldn’t do it. Notice that Jesus didn’t guarantee that others would treat you the way you wanted to be treated. Jesus instructed His disciples and the multitude to do unto others as they would have others do unto them and yet He never guaranteed others would treat them in that manner. It would be very easy to read the words which Jesus spoke unto the multitude and think that when we do unto others as we would have them do unto us that automatically guarantees that they will treat us the way we want to be treated.

 

            It is absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize that we have indeed been instructed to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, however, Jesus never promised they would treat us the way we would want to be treated. If there are two things we must needs recognize when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s that we were instructed and commanded to treat and do unto others as we would have them do unto us—not as they might have already treated us. What makes this important to recognize is that someone might have already treated us in a manner in which we would not want them to and yet we are instructed to do unto them as we would want and desire them to do to us. Even if someone has mistreated us we are instructed and commanded to do unto them as though they had treated us the way we would them to. What’s more is that with this being said it is absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize and understand that Jesus didn’t promise that men and and women would treat you as you wanted to be treated. While it was indeed true that we are in fact instructed to treat others and do unto others as we would have them do unto us we have not been promised nor have we been guaranteed that they will treat us as we would like and desire. With this being said it’s imperative to recognize and understand that when reading the words found in Scripture Jesus admonished and instructed His disciples and the multitudes to love others while not promising they would be loved in returned. Jesus instructed His disciples to love their neighbor as themselves and even to love their enemies and yet did not promise them they would be received, embraced, welcomed and even loved in return. This is something that was evidenced and manifested as early as Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the New Testament gospels beginning with the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew:

 

            “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all k,Indy’s of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

 

            “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:38-48).

 

            “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. Ands you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Therefore whoever confesses me before men, him I will also confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter in law against her mother in law; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:16-39).

 

            “And Jesus answered and said to them: Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judaea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor evil shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened. Then if anyone says to you, Loo, here is the Christ! Or There! Do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, Look, he is in the desert! Do not go out; or, Look, He is in the inner rooms! Do not believe it” (Matthew 24:4-25).

 

            “And he said: Take heed that you do not be deceived. For many will come in my name, saying, I am He, and, The time has drawn near. Therefore do not go after them. But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately. Then He said to them, Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. Therefore settle it in your hearts not to mediate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict and resist. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience possess your souls” (Luke 21:8-19).

 

            “These things I command you, that you love one another. If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the words that I said to you, A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for my name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both me and my Father. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, They hated me without a cause” (John 15:17-25).

 

            It’s incredibly unique to read the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for despite the powerful truth that Jesus has commanded us to love one another He did not promise we would be loved in returned. In fact Jesus emphatically declared that we would be persecuted, that we would be put out of the synagogues (churches), that we would be killed and that we would be hated of all nations and all men for the sake of His name. How absolutely incredible it is to read the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for they call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the fact that while we have indeed been called to be those who love our neighbor and love our brother we have not been promised that we will be loved in return. In fact Jesus promised that His disciples and those who walked with and followed Him would be persecuted, would be afflicted and would even be hated. This is something we must recognize and understand for it calls and draws our attention to the Golden Rule when Jesus declared unto the multitude to do unto others as they would have others do unto them. The Lord Jesus Christ completely ignored how others had treated them and instructed them to do unto others as they would have them do unto them. What this does is place the responsibility solely on Jesus’ hearers and on Jesus’ disciples rather than on those whom they interact with. That which Jesus declared unto them was that they were themselves responsible for their own actions and were responsible for how they treated others without at all being concerned with how others have treated them or will treat them in the future. Jesus never promised them they would be treated by others exactly as they treated them. Jesus instructed them to treat others as they would want to be treated but didn’t guarantee others would treat them the same way.

 

            All of this is important for us to recognize and understand for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the words which James wrote in the epistle written unto the twelve tribes which were scattered. James wrote unto the twelve tribes and admonished them to not show partiality or favoritism to those who entered in among them in their midst and even declared that such who did so were judges of evil thoughts. James goes on to declare and describe that God has chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him. With this being said, however, James would also write how they dishonored the poor man in favor of the rich man who oppresses them and drags them into the courts. Furthermore James goes on to write that if they fulfill the royal law according to Scripture you do well, but if they show partiality they commit sin and are conflicted by the law as transgressors. This is something we must needs recognize and pay close attention to for it forces us to take a look at ourselves and truly understand whether or not we are such who have favoritism and/or partiality within our hearts. Are we like the priest and the Levite who see those who are naked, bleeding, hungry, thirsty, sick, in prison and the like and choose to pass them by and walk on the other side? Are we those who might not pass by on the other side of the road but might choose to sit on the other side of the church rather than embracing those who enter in among us dressed in filthy clothes, are dirty from head to toe, wreak of alcohol and/or other controlled substances? Are we those who would choose to sit on the other side of the church rather than choosing to fully embrace those who come in among us dressed in filthy clothes and are completely and utterly dirty? Are we those who would demonize, marginalize and ostracize them rather than loving them and embracing them as both a brother/sister and neighbor? Oh I can’t help but be reminded of the parable Jesus delivered concerning the rich man and Lazarus and how the rich man treated Lazarus who was a poor beggar who sat outside the gate. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke:

 

            “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purpose and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be bed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us. Then he said, I beg you therefore, father, that’s you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment. Abraham said to him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, No father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent. But he said to him, If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:19-31).

           

As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke and how this particular gospel can be understood and discerned as one that is concerned with social responsibility. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that we as the disciples of Christ have indeed been called to be those who understand and recognize the fact that we bear a social responsibility to the poor, to the orphans and to the widows among us. Despite our many attempts to absolve and abscond our responsibility to such individuals I am convinced that we have been given a divine mandate and commission to be those who completely and utterly give ourselves to those in our culture and society who are in desperate need of food, who are in desperate need of drink, who are sick, who are naked, who are in prison and who are poor in this world. There is a great need for us to live beyond ourselves and to not be self-seeking nor self-indulging as James would write in the final verses of the third chapter of this epistle. With this being said I can’t help but wonder what we would do and how we would respond if prodigals started returning completely filthy and dirty from head to toe and smelling like the pig pens of this world. What would we do if those who were considered sinners in the cities and towns entered in among us? Would we be like the father who ran to embrace and meet the prodigal who returned or would we be like the big brother who complained and murmured as we wallow in our own self-righteousness and self-pity? Would we be like Jesus who would commend the woman from the city who was a sinner and washed His feet with her tears, dried them with the hairs of her head and anointed them with the fragrant oil? Are we such who would be the big brother’s in our churches and houses of worship? Are we such who would be the Simon’s in our churches and houses of worship who are Pharisees living in our self-righteousness? Notice that both the older brother and Simon were self righteous in their own eyes and despised and rejected those who were in desperate need. Oh I leave you with the following words which are found concerning the parable of the prodigal son and the woman from the city who was a sinner:

 

Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flasks of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping: and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, He spoke himself, saying, This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for he is a sinner. And Jesus answered and said to him, Simon, I have something to say to you. So he said, Teacher say it. There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell me, therefore, which of them will love him more? Simon answered and said, I suppose the one whom he forgave more. And he said to him, You have rightly judged. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has washed my feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss my feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint my head with oil, but this woman has anointed my feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little. Then He said to her, Your sins are forgiven. And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, Who is this who even forgives sins? Then He said to the woman, Your faith has saved you. Go in peace” (Luke 7:36-50).

 

Then He said: A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, Father give me the portion of goods that falls to me. So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, How. Many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your sons. Make me like one of your hired servants. And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, Father,  I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his servants, Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry: for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. And they began to be merry. Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf. But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I have never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him. And he said to him, Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found” (Luke 15:11-32).

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s