Recently I had posted an article on Face Book with the intent to bring awareness of the fact that many children and young people in the United States are trapped in the human sex trafficking trade and how organizations such as Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) https://ourrescue.org that use undercover teams of former CIA and Special Ops personnel go into the darkest corners of the world to help local law enforcement rescue  enslaved children and dismantle the criminal networks.

I was a bit disturbed and amazed when a Christian left a response to my post voicing his opinion that he does not believe that Christians should have anything to do with trying to help those who are caught up in the world’s evil because we belong to the kingdom of God and nothing we (Christians) do will ever change the evil that remains in the world.

He ended his response by insinuating that anyone who tries to help those who are caught up in the world’s problems, (poverty, homelessness, abuse) has a humanistic view of the world and is not what Jesus or the apostle Paul taught.

I have since discovered (To my dismay) that there are many Christians who believe that we should only help those who belong to the Christian faith. That when Jesus said that we are to love our neighbor, he was speaking about only our Christian neighbor—our brothers and sisters in Christ.

But what does the Bible teach about this?

In Luke 10:25-37 we read about a lawyer who tried to test Jesus asking, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asked him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” (Or how do you understand it?) The lawyer answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But the lawyer, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus then told him the parable of the good Samaritan, a story about a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him for dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road and when he saw the man he passed by on the other side. Then a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side as well. 

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came to where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he gave money to the innkeeper and told him to look after him, and said, “When I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.” Jesus then asked the lawyer, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” The lawyer replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

So according to Jesus, EVERYONE is our neighbor. And if everyone is our neighbor, how is refusing to help someone in need when we have the power and resources to do so, showing love to our neighbor? And how is obeying Jesus by responding to the needs of the poor, the downtrodden or those caught in the trap of human sex trafficking considered to be humanism?

Mistakingly believing that loving our neighbor refers to only other believers is nothing new. It was also a problem in ancient Judaism because of the people’s self-consciousness of being the chosen people and sealed in the rite of circumcision. This set Israel apart, made the people particularly loyal to their own kind, but at the same time, led to the tendency to neglect, and even condemn, those who were not Israelites. With such tendencies, it is not surprising that commandments had to be given to Israel to encourage compassion and justice for the non-Jew. Thus, Moses prescribed rites of conversion for the foreigner who wanted to eat Passover with Israel. (Exodus 12:43-49) He also commanded that some crops were to be left for the poor and the alien. (Leviticus  19:9-10)

In the New Testament period the Jews understood the biblical laws of the Old Testament that speak of neighbors as a command for special treatment of fellow Jews. Jews showed special love for fellow Jews because they were covenantally and racially bound together. There was a general social friendliness to Gentiles, but Jewish prejudice still remained. Even early Christianity showed a similar kind of “prejudiced love”. (Gal 6:10)

Jesus sought to expand the concept of “neighbor” to include non-Jews and even unbelievers. This was clearly challenging to many in Judaism as well as the early Church. Jewish practice had come to the general conviction that a “neighbor, ” in purely legal terms, was a Jew or proselyte to Judaism. For Jesus, a neighbor was anyone with whom you came into contact with—whether Jew, Samaritan, Gentile—or even pagan!

This profound parable of the good Samaritan, with its teaching on the importance of showing love for anyone within one’s reach, along with Jesus’ command to love one’s enemies (Matthew 5:43-48) and his love for Gentiles, (as in the case of the Roman Centurion—Matthew 8:5-13) Samaritans, (as in the case of the woman at the well—John 4:1-26) became foundational for the early Church’s missionary efforts and for interpersonal relationships within the largely non-Jewish churches of Paul. Paul urged the Galatians to love their neighbors as themselves and here the implication is that it involved both Jewish and Gentile Christians (Galatians 5:14) and we find in Luke 6:27 an emphasis on loving one’s enemy, (Meaning Jew, Gentile, or pagan) and doing good to them.

There are other Bible verses that confirm this:

Philippians 2:4 – Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Proverbs 19:17 – Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.

Matthew 5:42 – Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Romans 15:1- We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

Allison Stevens wrote a very good article for the Daily Bread website concerning this subject in which she stated:

Jesus’ entire adult life was characterized by a deep concern for the spiritual condition of the nonbeliever. He saw them as desperately lost, and His heart was broken because of that. His compassionate purpose for their well-being was deep-rooted, and He showed this concern specifically in the way He met them where they lived, fed them, taught them, and healed them. (Matthew 9:9-11; Mark 1:33-34)

The example Jesus set for us is to build relationships with people who don’t yet know Him. When we meet a person who has not yet experienced God’s saving grace, we are to have the heart of Jesus and extend a helping hand at their point of need. If they are thirsty, we can give them a cup of water; if they’re hungry, we can feed them. (See Matthew 25:35-40)

Let’s not forget that Jesus came to our rescue when we were lost. So now, out of gratitude and love, we can find opportunities to do what we can to help others who are separated from God. Isolating ourselves from sinners misses the point of sharing the good news of Jesus, and it feeds into a self-righteous attitude.

I think it’s clear that we, in countless ways and opportunities, can and should reach out to non-Christian people. We can show them love by offering them a meal, a job, or friendship, and most importantly, we can introduce them to Jesus, the Savior of our souls.

My heart grieves for my neighbors who don’t know the joy that is available to them through Jesus. I believe that we can do much more to be Jesus’ hands and feet to those who are lost and alone in this world.

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