CHAPETR FOUR: CONNECTING WITH NEIGHBOURS

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“Then Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God.”- 1Samuel 23:16
There will always be times when we need people around us, to share in our joy or pain, to encourage and stand by us in our trying moments. In fact, we can’t do without people around us because we are not created for isolation. God made life meaningful to us by not making man to be alone. This is the reason why life is about relationship, companionship, communication, fellowship, networking and connection amongst people of the same kind for the purpose of mutual love and growth.
 Considering what the world will look like if only one man had been living alone, and the only interaction he can have is with the animals. It would have been a lonely, bored experience. But I want to agree with the scriptures that God already had a plan that goes beyond Adam having a companion alone. He had a plan of the earth filled with human beings having a pleasurable relationship with one another and God.
          In Genesis 1:26-28, God said, “Let Us make man in our image, according to our likeness; let THEM have dominion… Male and female He created THEM. Then God blessed THEM, and God said to THEM, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it…” (Emphasis mine)
It is very obvious that God had a contingency plan of people in the earth who keeps bearing fruits, multiplying, filling and subduing the earth. God doesn’t made man to live alone forever. For this reason He built into man the ability to reproduce after his kind until the whole earth is subdued. Therefore, we are all created for the sake of relationship both horizontal (with God) and vertical (with fellow man). So it is not good to be alone. Relationship is part of God’s plan for us to enjoy His best on earth.
IT IS NOT GOOD TO BE ALONE
          The scripture says, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow, but woe to him that is alone when he falleth – for he has another not to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat; but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevails against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.
          We can understand from the above scriptures that being alone has great disadvantages. The Hebrew – Greek key word study Bible says, “In the phrase “a threefold cord is not quickly broken,” it is clear that Solomon is pointing out the advantage of companionship. Moreover, he presents this illustration to show how God in mercy provides help to those who will depend on Him.
In Ecclesiastes 4:9-11, Solomon explains further by examples how this concept of companionship is beneficial. He shows that there are definite advantages to working together (vv9, 10). However, he revealed how terrible the circumstances would be if one had to face adversity alone.
We must understand the power of relationship, fellowship and companionship in life. We need people who will love us for Christ’s sake. And that will be ready to stand by us in times of difficulties and adversities. One of the reasons some people commits suicide is traceable to loneliness. Most of these victims don’t have someone they can trust to share their burdens. Meanwhile, without having people who can encourage and cheer us up when we need them, going through difficult moments alone can be terrible. There’s a “can do spirit” that is stirred, enthused and stimulated in us when we have a friend who can strengthen our hand in God. This was the role Jonathan played in David’s life during his trying moments. He connected with David in his trials, suffering, and difficulties as a right neighbour to strengthen him (1Samuel 23:16).
 The word “Strengthened” is a Hebrew word “chazaq” translated help, repair, fortify, and encourage. Jonathan went to find David and his men in the wilderness of Ziph where they were pursued by enemies. He encouraged and fortified David in the Lord. Jonathan was an encourager. He became strength to David by the power of spoken words. He assured him that God will fulfill His purpose through him. Through Jonathan, a helping companion, David was not alone during his most difficult moment in life. The help he received from Jonathan contributed immensely to his triumphant experience.
BODY OF CHRIST – THE BODY OF HELPING BELIEVERS
 When Paul, the apostle was explaining the importance of the body of Christ, he used the analogy of one human body having many members with different functions (see Romans 12:4). Yet, each member helps another to function effectively. This is exactly what we are as Christians. We are many, but we are one body of Christ. Then, if we are one body that represents many members – and we cannot function alone; it means we are interdependent on one another for mutual effectiveness. The apostle Paul said in 1
Corinthians 12:21, “And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.” That is the truth about the group of Christians. We can’t say we don’t need one another. In fact, the body of Christ that brought us together is a body where no member can function effectively on its own. It is a body of interconnected members and not independent members.
          Since I was born, I‘ve never seen human head walking alone on the street. Neither have I seen just the hand alone driving a car. This shows each member need one another to function comfortably without constraints. The same way we believers need ourselves to be at our best – to function effectively the way God made us.
          We must not isolate ourselves as non-essential part of the body. We should partner with fellow believers because we all need one another. We need comfort, strength, help and encouragement from one another. When one is weak, another should serve as strength. This is one of the ways we can enjoy triumphant living.
          Another reason we need one another is that: when one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it (1Corinthians 12:26).
          Is that not true? I have seen people who kept having sleepless nights, recurring, chronic headaches and body pains because of ordinary tooth ache. Some people ended removing that single teeth causing disorder in the entire body before the victim would enjoy peace and relief.
          When someone is involved in a fatal accident that affected the leg, and the wound doesn’t seem to heal and it’s been noted that the wound keeps decaying. Doctors may suggest the amputation of the leg to bring relief to the patient. Why? The more the pains persist, the more it affects the patient’s entire body. This means whatever affects any part of our body affects the entire body.
          The same is obtainable in the body of Christ. Whatever affects any of our fellow brothers or sister in the Lord affects the entire body of Christ. We mustn’t wink at our fellow believer going through pains and challenges. Then, we think since it doesn’t affect us, the person should carry his or her burden alone. That is unchristian. The Bible says, “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say to them – depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? (James 2:15-16)
Such attitude is not godly. We are to be our brother’s keeper – to strengthen, help and encourage them in their times of need. We should meet their need when we have resources or power to do so. There is nothing wrong in going extra mile to render a service of love to our fellow human being who needs our help. It attracts great reward from God.
We should also rejoice when they rejoice and stand with them in their suffering to help them. This is what prompted the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-31.
In that parable, a certain teacher of law wanting to justify himself asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus gave a very clear picture of who a true neighbor is among the three people who came across the man robbed and wounded by the thieves. First, the priest who came down that road saw the man but passed on the other side. Second, a certain Levite also came and did the same thing. These were the people you wouldn’t expect such attitude from. They were ministers of God, yet, they ignored their fellow man that desperately needed urgent help.
We can as well say the man in this parable was a kind of someone who has been beaten down and robbed by the devil. Look at the four things done to the man by the thieves. First, they stripped him of his raiment, second, they wounded him, third, ruined him half dead, and fourth, they left him alone to die. The scripture says, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…” (See John 10:10a). So, we have a man who devil has wounded emotionally, physically, financially and spiritually. He has been defeated and helpless – who needed the help of others. This type of people are always around us – whether in the church, office or community. Yet, they have been ignored by the people who are obliged and expected to inspire, encourage, help, support, raise, equip and bring relief to them.
The same thing happened to the man who was left half dead by the thieves. Two religious leaders passed by on the other side – abandoned him in his messy situation. But the third person was a certain Samaritan while on his journey met this man. And the Bible says, when he saw him, he had compassion, went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to the hospital, and took care of him (Luke 10:33, emphasis added). We shall discuss these underlined words extensively later.
In this scenario, the Samaritan was the least expected person to take care of this man – considering the fact that Samaritans during this period were known to be people whom the Jews have no dealings with (See John 4:9). They were despised race because of their paganism and idolatry practices (John 4:22). This is the reason Jesu
s called the man “Good Samaritan.” He exhibited the goodness that is unusual and unexpected within his race. Then, He now asked the lawyer who he thought was neighbor to him that fell among thieves? Either the “Religious merciless Jews or the unreligious merciful Samaritan”? “He who showed mercy on him,” the lawyer answered. So Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” That is: go and become merciful, kindhearted, gracious, helper, rescuer, liberator, and redeemer, compassionate, encourager, healer, inspirer and strength to the people in need. Anyone you do this to and anyone who does this to you is your neighbour.
Let’s now discuss in broader ways, the qualities a true neighbour must possess for us to identify them and also become one. But before then, we need to ask, “Who is a neighbour?”
WHO IS A NEIGHBOUR?
A neighbour is someone who lived or positioned himself or herself as a partner to help, impact, show mercy, render kindness, become gracious, rescue, liberate, redeem, encourage, heal, inspire, and give strength to another person, either in the church, workplace, home or anywhere. This person may not necessarily be someone living or located near another person, and may not have any relationship together initially. For instance, the Good Samaritan and the bereaved man were not friends or living together in the same location. In fact, it was vividly clear in the story that he doesn’t have any relationship or knowledge about the man. Therefore, earning the commendation of a true neighbour from Jesus was not a “noun” of a fellow man or one living near another. But it was a “verb” that described his action at that crucial moment – the way he associated with the wounded man in a neighbourly way. That is the perspective we shall be considering to know who our neighbour is and the undeniable qualities to recognize one when we see him or her. Most importantly, it will help us to know how we can also become a true neighbour to others in their moments of difficulties.
SEVEN QUALITIES OF A TRUE NEIGHBOUR
There are seven outstanding qualities that qualified this Good Samaritan a true neighbour to the bewildered man. These qualities will help us to know seven ways we can identify a true neighbour sent to help us in times of need and how we can also be a true a neighbour to others who may need urgent help.