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Love thy Neighbor?

James Mullins

          The Lord revealed to me a valuable lesson in the meaning of" love for the lost" and the Anglican mission in America. I have been reflecting for some time and asking God about the issue of the homeless. When is it the right time to cut them off, since they have been afforded the opportunities to better themselves? And after constant giving, they don't seem to want or desire to change their circumstances.

God revealed a truth to me that set me to tears on Sunday morning during our service at the May fest.  I sat there in awe of the overwhelming feeling of disappointment I felt in the midst of our time of communion with the Lord. The answer I sought from God about when do we stop giving to those who keep asking for our help was clearly answered.

One of our homeless brothers that frequently attends our church and is constantly asking for help was there. This brother’s demeanor is abrasive and outspoken but he does profess Jesus as his Lord and Savior. In fact he knows scripture better than some who attend services on a regular basis. His exterior is rough and in need of personal hygiene and most often than not he is under the influence of alcohol. He has no physical impairments and is quite young in years.

 The service was held outside, this brother took up a seat on the pavement in front of the stage in plain view of all to see. He pulled out his gallon jug of wine, lit his cigar and settled in for the service. As the service progressed he became more loud and abrasive. At one point he even yelled at a sister to move out of the way because she was blocking his view.  As the time approached for the offering he stood up, scanned the crowd and came over to ask a man seated in front of me “do you have some chicken”. The man replied that he didn’t have any chicken. The brother looked a bit confused by the answer as prior to the service he had approached me with the same request and I had said I would buy him some after the service.  He stood there for a second looking at him and then realized had asked the wrong person when he saw me. You could feel the eyes of the entire congregation being cast in our direction. He didn't care one bit about what was going on around him. Then he asked me “ What about that chicken brother?"  

One of the Fathers gently took his arm in an effort to escort him out of the service but this only agitated the brother and caused him to resist. When I saw this I interjected and told the brother lets go get some chicken.

As we were walking I asked him “Why do you suppose you are having so many problems in your life, and why can't you adjust to society?"

His reply was "because of my drinking." I followed up with this question, "Are you really tired of your lifestyle and your drinking? 

He said,  "Yeah I am".  

I looked at him and said, ”You and I both know until you get tired of the way your living and acting you will never make that change. You have to hate it enough to leave it at the foot of Christ. And when you do God will help you get rid of your addiction”.  

We ordered his chicken and I left him, stating that God Loves him and so do I.

 When I returned to the service the Holy Spirit fell on me in such a powerful way that I began to weep. At first I didn’t understand what was happening. Then I realized it was my spirit grieving for what it was seeing and feeling. The Lord replayed the whole incident again right before my eyes. Except this time he was showing me what was in my heart and what the Holy Spirit saw in our worship service. He revealed to me the answer I had been asking: When my brother turned to look towards me, for a moment I looked away hoping he wouldn't see me and ask someone else.  

What God revealed to me in that split second was a part of my flesh that still had not yielded itself over to Christ. Jesus said in such a soft loving voice that penetrated to the very depths of my soul, “James, when did I ever turn away from you when you were in need”? And at that same moment I felt all the eyes turn away when our brother stood up and headed toward the front of the church asking for food. 

I felt all the discomfort of the people who wanted him removed from their sight because of his disruption and lack of reverence in God s house. I felt all the anger people felt when he shouted at the sister who came up to pray for anyone who was in need, to, "Move out of the way your blocking my view." The grief was so overwhelming I couldn't stop crying. It was only when I took communion and asked the Lord to forgive me for turning my back on him did the tears stop.

God revealed to me what was on the inside of this brother’s heart. He believes Jesus is the Christ and that he will come again, yet, his stronghold is alcohol. His sin is in the open for all to see. He doesn't cover it up and he acknowledges his weakness. 

How many of us cover up and deny our sins so as too look righteous on the outside. 

Do a nice home, car, money, and a good name make us any better than this brother? 

I neglected to see that no matter his choices and his circumstances, or even his personality, as rough as it is, he is still loved by the lord. That if he asks for food and even if he doesn’t, if I claim to know Christ and do nothing about his physical needs then I have no faith at all. 

James 2:14-15 “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?” Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  

This doesn't mean I am to give him cash if he asks for it. The reason being because I know he will buy alcohol with it.        

All of us, whether homeless or not, sin and fall short of the glory of God. Does God favor us over the homeless? For months we have heard the word of the Anglican Mission in America. To go forth as missionaries to reach our community for Christ! We all need to remove our scales from our eyes and look whom God has sent us to love first before he sends us out. All that comes to us is ordered by God. To us as Christians, nothing is accidental. How often the eyes of Balaam’s burro are sharper than ours. May God give us enlightenment to see what is from His hand.       

 I am very familiar with the stories of the homeless, excuses, and the constant cycles of repetitive addictions, because I lived it for 7 long years on the streets of America. I know the con games of how to get you to reach down deep into your pockets for that last "so called dollar." And, how to play the violin strings of your heart. Sympathy was my game and I was good at it. The reason for me was because I was a victim of abuse, as long as I had not received the understanding of forgiveness, I was doomed to die in this condition. I thank God for the Christians He put in my life, allowing me to receive his forgiveness, and help me understand what it means to forgive others.

 This key ingredient is lacking in most of the homeless today. They cannot forgive themselves because of their lack of understanding. Some suffer from low self-esteem due to constant berating and belittling from their parents, classmates and co-workers. They see themselves as unworthy because they focus on their failures. Sooner or later they begin to believe the lie of unworthiness and give up trying, turning to drugs and alcohol to ease the pain of rejection only to be ensnared in the trap of addiction leading to self-destruction.

Most of us have not experienced this kind of rejection and loneliness. Instead of trying to understand something, we can’t, we turn away. We rationalize it by saying things like,” Well they have a choice to change their situation to better themselves." Or, ” I'm tired of giving to someone who won't help themselves”. And the one I used "Do not throw your pearls to swine. (God forgive me.)

 How many scriptures can we find to validate our reasons not to help, or, to give, compared to the number of scriptures that command us to do so? And, when is enough giving ever enough? Is social standing an indicator of inward need? We are all in need of love and acceptance regardless of our position in life. Some of us are just more refined and domesticated than others. Should we give only to those whose appearance and manners are acceptable to us?

 If money, good deeds, and self-righteousness were the indicator of our salvation, then which of us would be first to inherit it? 

I submit, “ALL of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. ( Isa 64 : 6”).

 So then, when does charity start and end? 

I believe it started when Jesus Christ took away our inherited state of death through Adam, when he died on the cross. He brought into our world his Unconditional Love. “(Romans 5:6) You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”  

In our sinful state he accepted us just as we were. He didn't command us to bathe, put on acceptable clothes, smell good, acquire proper manners, be polite and then I will Love you. He said I love you unconditionally. We didn't earn it by our righteousness we inherited it by faith in Jesus.

When the name of Jesus is removed from our world and from the lips of man, then the time of grace is over. Until then we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves and even our enemy. ( Math 5: 43- 48). " You have heard that it was said, love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect."

If anyone says that Jesus Christ is Lord he is my brother. 

Our understanding, obedience, and our faith determines our fruit, not our salvation. Whatever the state a man is in, whether he is a believer or not, we are to treat him with the love of Christ. 

James 2:1-13 clearly states that favoritism is forbidden and considered a sin. James 2:14-26 tells us about faith and deeds. “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” Jeremiah 22:16 tells us He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to KNOW ME? Declares the Lord.

The Lord has answered my prayer “When do we say enough is enough”? 

This was his reply, 1John 3:16-19 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence.”

         If our hearts are truly on the Lord and we are truly worshipping in the spirit we can be before God in the midst of utter distractions just as much as when we are praying somewhere alone. If we have not achieved this intimacy with the Lord the trouble does not lie in the distraction, nor in other people, but in ourselves. "

  "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Col 3:12-14