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Am I A Neighbor?

Written By Adriel Yeo, Singapore

In the month of June last year, I spent the bulk of my time in New York City. It was refreshing to see different types of people and lifestyles that one would not typically find in Singapore. During my stay, there were two incidents that left me thinking about how we should treat the foreigners living in our own country. Both incidents happened when I was taking the subway.

In one of the incidents, I was staring at the map trying to figure out which line to take and where to alight so that I could change to another line (honestly speaking, it’s more complicated than how it sounds). To my pleasant surprise, a lady approached me asking if I needed help. She then showed me the direction that I needed to head towards. Needless to say, I was very grateful. The second incident happened when I was already in the subway. An American who walked out attempted to spit at me but the closing door took the “bullet” and I watched the guy’s phlegm slide slowly down the train door.

In Singapore where I live, the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) map is by far less complicated and much easier to read. Singaporeans generally have little difficulties finding our way around. However, this may not be the case for a foreigner. Taking this issue one step further, there are plenty of foreigners in our midst and they may experience difficulties adjusting to the cultural differences. There are also those who work for hours under the sun and face certain injustices that are not being addressed. How should Christians respond to these issues?

In 2013, a Population White Paper was published that triggered a nationwide debate. It outlined the government’s plans to increase the population of Singapore to 6.9 million (of which citizens would only form 55 percent) by the year 2030. This news was not well received. But this is not the first time that Singaporeans have complained about issues regarding foreign workers.

As I recall both of the incidents that I faced in New York City, I wonder whether we are more like the American lady who offered to help me, or the other guy who attempted to spit at me. Do we as Christians show hospitality and grace to the foreigners in our midst? My personal take is that regardless of our opinions on certain policies like the Population White Paper, or the label “foreign worker” or “foreign talent”, we should offer help and extend the grace and compassion that was first extended to us by Christ.

No matter how much we may hate or oppose the idea of a city overpopulated by foreigners (or our university slots being taken up by foreigners), the reality is that some of these people are already in our midst. Many of them are our colleagues or people we see daily, making them our direct neighbors. At the end of the day, the rejection of a policy should not lead us to a rejection of people (or at the very least for this particular scenario). So while some of us may disagree with the government’s plan to drastically increase the population, this should not justify or give us an excuse to treat the foreigners among us with hostility.

Many of us are familiar with the parable of the good Samaritan where the question of “who is my neighbor” was posed to Jesus. I think it is extremely interesting and thought-provoking that the implication of Jesus’ reply was not so much of who our neighbor is but whether or not we are behaving as a neighbor to others. This is certainly a point worth pondering. Are we as Christians, neighbors to the people around us? Or do we treat them with hostility because we never supported the policies that brought them here in the first place?

[Jesus] answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Luke 10:27 NIV).

ODJ: cross ‘n’ dagger

July 18, 2013 

READ: Matthew 9:9-13 

I have come to call . . . those who know theyare sinners (v.13).

Heavy metal music, motorcycles and muscle cars. All of these things were present at the annual Cross ’n’ Dagger church service held at the Life Bridge Church. The congregation created this special service for people who might not attend a ‘regular’ Sunday morning meeting. Senior Pastor Bill Campbell said, “[People] can come in their leathers, if they’re bikers . . . . However they’re dressed, they’re welcomed.”

While there were no super-charged cars or bikes at Matthew’s house the night he threw a party for Jesus, there were “disreputable sinners” (Matthew 9:10). It was a motley crew that included some despised tax collectors—people known for their sin.

When the Pharisees noticed this lot of lawbreakers, they questioned the disciples: “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” (v.11). But Jesus didn’t see them that way. He said, “I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners” (v.13). (Can’t you just see the Pharisees’ eyes widen and then narrow?)

Jesus further defended the partygoers by suggesting that the Pharisees spend some quality time thinking about this verse: “I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices” (v.13). He wasn’t impressed with the Pharisees’ outer display of goodness, and He wanted compassion to cancel out their criticism.

Today Jesus wants us to have soft hearts towards people who don’t know Him. He’s pleased when we realise that sin isn’t just an issue for the unchurched. All of us need His help (Romans 3:23). Poet Jeff Bethke sums it up like this: “If grace is water, then the church should be an ocean. [The church] is not a museum for good people, it’s a hospital for the broken.”—Jennifer Benson Schuldt

MORE
Read Philemon 1:17 to see Paul’s instructions to a church regarding showing grace to a repentant sinner. Read Romans 5:8 to see how God feels about sinners. 
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Why do we tend to see ourselves as ‘better’ than people who are known for their sin? How might this view prevent us from sharing the message of Jesus’ love? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: doing good things

July 16, 2013 

READ: Matthew 6:1-3 

Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven (v.1).

My neighbourhood in Uganda was relatively quietuntil a businessman disrupted our peace byopening an outdoor bar across the street from my home. Now loud music blares the entire night, with the bar owner refusing to consider the residents he’s disturbing. He tells us that he’s a good man, and since he gives money to the poor, people shouldn’t complain.

Those of us experiencing sleepless nights find the man’s self-proclaimed “good works” easy to ignore. We aren’t charmed by the fact that he does some things that appear to be altruistic.

My neighbour’s inconsistencies have caused me to think about my own life. Is it possible that for every good thing I’ve done for one person, I’ve said or done something unkind to someone else? I don’t know the ratio of my good to bad deeds, but I do know that God is greatly concerned about my motive for doing good deeds. Jesus said, “Watch out! Don’t do your good deed publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).

Now, God instructs us to be “generous to those inneed, always being ready to share with others” (1 Timothy 6:18). He wants us to sacrificially help and serve others, as He has done for us. But the purpose is to bring Him glory, not to simply make ourselves look good to God or others (Colossians 3:23). For if our good deeds made us acceptable to God, then we would have something to boast about. But that isn’t God’s way (Romans 4:2).

With hearts changed by God’s grace, may we let our “good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise [our] heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:16). That’s why we do good things.—Roxanne Robbins

MORE
Look up “deeds” in a concordance and listthe types of deeds the Bible refers to. See Romans 8:13 and2 Corinthians 4:2, 9:9.  
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Why is it important to know that we’ve been saved by grace and that good deeds should naturally flow from our relationship with God? How can we bring Him glory today by doing good things? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: leftovers

July 9, 2013 

READ: Deuteronomy 24:19-21 

There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need (15:11).

According to a study released in August 2012,Americans throw away 40 percent of their food every year, valued at roughly $165 billion annually. The average American throws away 240 pounds (110 kg) of edibles per person every year. Just a 15 percent reduction in this amount would feed 25 million people annually.

God promised to bless the Israelites if they would simply obey Him. They would always have had enough food to eat (Leviticus 26:3-5; Deuteronomy 28:1-8). In the midst of their plenty, however, the Israelites were told to deliberately “waste food”: “When you are harvesting your crops and forget to bring in a bundle of grain from your field, don’t go back to get it” (Deuteronomy 24:19). “Do not strip every last bunch of grapes from the vines, and do not pick up the grapes that fall to the ground” (Leviticus 19:10). Why the deliberate waste?

The Jews were to leave some of the food “for the foreigners, orphans and widows” so that the poor and the vulnerable would not go hungry (Deuteronomy 24:19). God reminded them of the hunger that their ancestors had experienced as slaves in Egypt (v.22).

Today, one out of every seven people is starving(925 million total). Sharing food with them should include not wasting it ourselves and sharing our abundance with the poor. God’s solution to hungry stomachs is the generous hearts and open hands of those who believe in Him (15:4-11).

“Feed Me,” Jesus tells us. But we ask, “Lord, when did we ever see You hungry and feed You?” “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me!’ ” (Matthew 25:35-40).—K.T. Sim
Mark 4:1-29 ‹

MORE
Read Deuteronomy 15 to see how God wants us to care for the poor, needy and vulnerable in the world. What’s one thing you can do for people such as these? 
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What can you do to lessen the wasting of food? How can you help to feed the hungry in your community?  

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)