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Chapter 21 - Taking the Initiative
In response to the bible verse 'Love one’s neighbor as ones self' Jesus was asked 'Who is my neighbor'. To this question Jesus responded with the parable of the good Samaritan.
Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. - Luke 10:36
While the question was asked to try to trip up Jesus, the answer example is illuminating. Here 'neighbor' is not defined by proximity, class, or ethnicity. It is a choice. The recognition of a need, the assessment of the wherewithal to meet the need, and the choice to take action to help another all combine to show mercy and express love.
Reaching out to help someone in need establishes a relationship (however brief it may be). Within the body of Christ the ability to reach out requires a knowledge of the circumstances and needs of others. This can only come from the investment we make of ourselves in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Some (perhaps most) other Christians would prefer not to be open to such relationships even if they had the time.
Seeking to initiate, form, and maintain relationships with other Christians requires that a Christian take the initiative for how he integrates his faith into his daily life. This can be difficult to consider especially if a person is only familiar with adding church activities to his life as opposed to living for Christ. Frequently with church activity, one follows the direction and requirements of others (sort of like living on automatic pilot). Living for Christ requires operating one’s life more on manual control.
It might feel safe to wrap ourselves up in the assurance our church gives us that we have met all their requirements. However, we will all stand before Jesus to give an account and it will not be for our faithfulness to our church, but our faithfulness to him.
Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. - 1 Corinthians 3:13-15
At the end of the tribulation those who are lost will be judged for how they acted individually.
I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. - Matthew 25:43-45
We should consider how much the Christian life depends on what we do as individuals
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. - Philippians 2:3
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. - 1 John 4:7
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: - James 1:19
If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work. - 2 Timothy 2:21
For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; - 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4
That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; - Colossians 1:10
Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. - Phillipians 2:4
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. - Ephesians 4:32
One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. - Romans 14:5
Churches often mean well, but in reducing Christianity to a system of rules, requirements, and obligations, the fullness, vitality, and power of the life of Christ is restricted in the life of a believer and he is crippled in the life Christ would have him live as well as the relationships through which he could minister to others.
Often it is when a Christian matures that he recognizes he needs to take control of his life and, because he is responsible to Christ for how he lives it, direct his life in the way Christ would have him go.
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