Smile... The Future's On Its Way
by C.J. Horn
Help Lord!: A Perspective On Community
Thinking about flying in an airplane is all well and good, but most of life is spent on the ground, in a day to day combination of work and play, worship and worry. And every one of those days is impacted by the community in which one lives. The modern day community extends far beyond the boundaries of one's street or town; a worldwide "community" of information has brought everything from civil war to brain surgery directly into the social structure of the home. One day while driving behind a van, I noticed two little girls looking out the back window. One of them held a balloon on which these words were printed: "One Planet, One People...Please." These small children and generations to come are being groomed for a one-world government. If one takes the Bible as true, one realizes this is the inevitable course of events for our world.
In the meantime, as all national boundaries disappear in the face of economic and social pressure, God's people must maintain a perspective on a sometimes frightening worldwide community. The "royal law" of God (James 2:8) includes the command to love one's neighbor as he would love himself. Since man's community is fast including all the world, it is good to get a perspective on neighbor relations. The Bible, God's Word, is still the best place to find that perspective.
A Bad Neighbor
The ninth commandment says "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor" (Exodus 20:16). The book of First Kings narrates a startling example of someone who lied about his neighbor.
King Ahab wanted the vineyard of his neighbor, Naboth. Naboth refused, so Ahab's wife, Jezebel devised a plot to steal it. Her plan was to proclaim a fast... "And set two men, sons of Belial (meaning worthless, destructive men), before him (Naboth), to bear witness against him, saying, Thou didst blaspheme God and the king. And then carry him out, and stone him, that he may die" (1 Kings 21:10, 13). Lying about Naboth signed his death warrant on the basis of the standard set by God: "One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established" (Deuteronomy 19:15). Naboth lost his life and his home because of a lying neighbor. The above example is not intended to illustrate how one should treat a neighbor, but to show that man has changed little since the days of King Ahab.
Good Neighbors are Scarce
Thus the cry of the Psalmist: "Help Lord! For the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men" (Psalm 12:1).
What kind of person is the Psalmist talking about? One discovers the Hebrew word "godly" in Scripture is translated various other ways. These other words and their usage give insight into a godly person's character. "Saint" is the very same word as "godly" in the Old Testament. In the New Testament Paul wrote letters to all the "saints" in various cities (Letters to the church at Rome, at Ephesus, at Corinth, etc.). When Jesus ascended to His father, the Holy Spirit (the Comforter) came (John 16:7). The Holy Spirit would come to earth and indwell the saints (or believers--1 Corinthians 3:16). He was to teach the believers all things and "bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 16:7). Jesus "gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some pastors and teachers" (Ephesians 4:11). This was so the saints would be "perfected" (Ephesians 4:12) which means complete. In other words, sainthood is conferred by becoming a member of God's family, by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. A person who is saintly or godly is conducting his life in accordance with following the leadership of the Holy Spirit of God that indwells him.
Godly Characteristics
Though perhaps rare, there are saints everywhere, in every walk of life. Jesus said that we would know them by their fruit (Matthew 7:20). He also said that "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples (the saints), if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35). There are numerous examples in Scripture of the actions of a saint (godly person). The following are just a few of them:
The godly man or woman has gone through tough times that seem too much for one person to bear. Even though they do not appear happy outwardly during these times, they never say they feel deserted by God. In fact, their attitude is that all Christians are going to have trouble in this life and it is best not to be surprised when trouble comes (Psalm 72:2-3; 1 Peter 4:12)
The godly won't stand for lying or cheating and seem to actually hate the things that people do to destroy themselves and others (Psalm 97:10).
The godly are not afraid to obey God even when doing so means NOT taking care of "number one." The godly trust that God is in control has everything under control (Psalm 85:8; 1 Samuel 2:9).
The godly spend time studying about the Lord and talking to Him through prayer. It seems they always have something to share with others about what the Lord has been doing or what they have learned in serving Him (Psalm 52:9; Psalm 30:4,5).
The godly truly believe that God will someday return for them and take them to a real place called "heaven." They look forward to it and believe Christians will have an angelic escort into the presence of God when they die (Psalm 50:5; Psalm 116:15).
One can understand why a community filled with people such as those described above would be a great place for families to live. Proverbs 3:29 says " Devise not evil against thy neighbor, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee." One feels safe near a good neighbor knowing he will not lie or "devise evil." The source of a good neighbor's honesty is his relationship to God, and this extends to an honest relationship with his fellow man. This is all the foundation needed for good community relations. The Good Samaritan of Luke 10 was the illustration Jesus used to teach about being a good neighbor. He wasn't a neighbor to the injured traveler because he lived next door to him, he was a neighbor to him because of his response to the man's need. Believers are commanded to love their neighbor as they love themselves.
However, as Luke's illustration of the Good Neighbor points out, the chance of finding such a person is about one in three. What is more evident in our world today is the truth found in Psalm 12:8: "The wicked walk on every side when the vilest men are exalted."
The exaltation of vile behavior through today's mass media is rampant. So much so that vile behavior has become commonplace. While buying shampoo in a salon, I over heard two hairdressers talking near the back of the shop. Their conversation was explicit and loud, but nonchalant as a conversation about weather. It centered around their experiences swimming at various nude beaches throughout the world. They used degrading terms to describe the human anatomy. This experience is commonplace. In fact, it is the stuff that television programming is made of.
One is more likely to read in the news and the history books what man has done to man, not any good that man has done for man. The holocaust perpetrated by Hitler should always be a reminder of the depths to which mankind can go in his cruelty to his fellow man. Abortions have reached staggering proportions with 4 out of 8 children being disposed of by murder. Terrorism became a stark reality to the people of the United States with bombings of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and the World Trade Center in New York. People were arbitrarily murdered, many of them children. Note the fear and frustration in the Psalmist words: "They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps, when they wait for my soul. Shall they escape by iniquity?" (Psalm 56:6-7). The Psalmist could have been living in our current age. He wrote in Psalm 12:2, "They speak vanity everyone with his neighbor, with flattering lips and a double heart do they speak. To speak vanity with one's neighbor is to speak lies, or to be deceitful. Hiding a bomb in a building full of people is the height of deception.
The cry for help in Psalm 12:1 also included a lament about the lack of the "faithful" among the "children of men." What is this faithfulness? It is defined best by looking at the One who will be faithful no matter what: "If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful, He cannot deny Himself" (II Timothy 2:13). Faith is that which stands on realities, seen or unseen. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). A faithful man is trustful and trustworthy. Not only can a faithful person be trusted, but that person leans on Someone other than himself.
The Source of Being a Good Neighbor
There is freedom in realizing that all human beings have limitations and there is only One who will never fail. This kind of freedom allows us the strength and peace of mind to be trustworthy citizens of our world -- committing ourselves to Someone greater than any person or problem we may encounter.
My father was a man who understood how important the community is. One day a young man crashed his motorcycle on the road in front of my father's house. Dad came to the rescue, helped the youngster get the bike started, and sent him on his way. That afternoon, the boy's father drove over to thank Dad and say how unusual it was to find someone who would help a stranger. My Dad's response was, "It takes a lot of people to raise just one boy."
If what my father said is true, then everyone is responsible for those in their community or neighborhood. The Good Samaritan changed community relations on a deserted road. Like the man of Luke 10, who became known as the "Good Samaritan," my father could gain nothing from helping a boy he would never see again. My father's relationship with that young "neighbor" was based on Dad's relationship with the One who had picked him up and dusted him off after many of life's crashes.
How to Build a Community
Romans 12 contains a passage that could be a guidebook for good community relations:
"Let love be without dissimulation (deception). Abhor (Hate) that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another" (Romans 12:9,10)
In other words, let someone else go first! Continuing Romans 12,
"Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality."
Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men (Romans 12:11-17)
Romans 12 even addresses the root cause of evil terrorism:
If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:18-21).
The Temporary Community
Man is a warrior who fights for territory. It is as much a part of his make-up as his breath. James addresses this:
"From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts...Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?" James 4:1-5
If man is to live in peace with his neighbor, he needs to live in view of the fact that those things which he fights to obtain and control are things that are passing away. The Lord is patient, because He loves mankind. He is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). But there is a day coming when His longsuffering will be past and "the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10). The only eternal things that will come out of our neighborhood or community will be the people that we lived alongside.
The Apostle Peter issues a challenge to all who would be good neighbors:
"Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness," and he talks of a new neighborhood: "Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Peter 3:11,13).