Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: neighbour

Lessons for life from the epistle of James

1. If ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. (3:14-15)
No matter how right I am about something, if I let myself become angry and bitter, I am wrong.

2. The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. (1:20)
I may think I am standing up for God’s truth, but if I become angry I am damaging His cause.

3. The trying of your faith worketh patience (1:3)
I can’t increase my patience by avoiding situations that test it. Even if I sometimes fail the test, I should be learning that I can’t trust only in myself in those circumstances.

4. The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. (3:17)
I am not naturally endowed with this kind of wisdom. I must seek it from above, from God.

5. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (4:7)
Why couldn’t I figure out on my own how I should live? Instinctively, I resist the idea of submission to God, it sounds like defeat. I have discovered that my stubborn resistance leads to defeat and submission is the way of victory.

6. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (5:16)
But others won’t understand me. They don’t know the problems, temptations and frustrations that I have to deal with. But when we share our struggles with one another we realize how much alike we are and that we all face the same spiritual enemy. By prayer we all have access to the power to overcome our doubts, trials and temptations.

7. If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well (2:8)
This is rightly called the royal law. It is the one rule for citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Everything else is just commentary.

How can killing make the world better?


It’s in all the news media  today. A man in Pittsburgh believed the world would be a better place without Jews and this morning he did his part to make it happen.

This seems to be a time-honoured tradition; if you can’t handle your own problems then blame them on somebody else and try to eliminate that somebody else.

Yeah, I said time-honoured; that doesn’t mean I think it’s honorable. It’s a sign of a troubled mind and it’s been going on far too long. The world cannot be made better by hatred and killing. No individual’s life can be made better by acting out his hatred and killing people.

There is an example in the Old Testament that doesn’t involve hatred, just the muddled idea that killing can make things better. Benjamin was a captive in Egypt; Reuben told his father “Trust me. I’ll bring back my little brother. And if I don’t, you can kill my two sons.”

I’m a grandfather, will someone please explain to me how I could be comforted for the loss of a child by the loss of two of my grandchildren? Does that make sense to anyone? Jacob didn’t seem to be impressed either.

Hatred and killing don’t make things better, they only lead to more hatred and killing. Jesus said “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” He didn’t invent that teaching, He was quoting from the Law given to Moses; the original is found in Leviticus 19:18.

There are two things we can do as individuals to make this world a better place. First is to face our own problems, take responsibility for them and take charge of our own life. The second is to love others, not only in our thoughts but in our actions.

My sympathy to all those who have been hurt by the events in Pittsburgh this morning.

What is your duty towards your neighbour?

The title of this post is a question from the catechism in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. The answer given in the catechism is as follows:

My duty towards my neighbour is to love him as myself, and to do to all as I would they would do unto me.

To love, honour, and help my father and mother; to honour and obey the Queen, and all who are in authority under her; to show respect to teachers and pastors; and to be courteous to all.

To hurt nobody by word or deed; to be true and just in all my dealing; to bear no malice or hatred in my heart; to keep my hands from picking and stealing, and my tongue from evil-speaking, lying, and slandering.

To keep my body in temperance, soberness, and chastity:

Not to covet or desire other men’s goods; but to learn and labour truly to get my own living, and to do my duty in the vocation to which it shall please God to call me.

As I read this over, 60 years after I first studied this catechism, it strikes me that there is nothing impossibly idealistic in these statements; nor do they contain anything distinctively Anglican. They are the simple Biblical standards by which all who call themselves Christian should measure their lives.

Perhaps there is no merit in simply memorizing such fine-sounding words. Yet it seems to me that they could well serve as a daily check list to examine myself to see if I am as much a Christian as I would like to think I am.

It also struck me that there is considerable merit in our country being a constitutional monarchy. The Queen has no real authority over us in Canada, the idea that she is the head of state is considered by many to be an irrelevant fiction. Yet there is virtue in praying for “the Queen, and all who are in authority under her,” in that it overrides any political sensibilities we may have and allows us to pray for our governments as the Bible instructs us to.

We are in the middle of a federal election campaign here in Canada and the party leaders are competing to see who can sling the most mud. If we follow the news at all, it may be difficult to avoid having our feelings stirred. What happens then when the election is over and the “wrong” party has been elected? Can we still pray for God’s guiding hand over our government and promise to respect and obey those in authority?

The Queen is not elected, not a political appointee. For all that she has no real authority, praying for her and “all who are in authority under her” is a politically neutral form of prayer and a reminder of the proper Biblical attitude towards those in authority.

What are the signs that someone is a Christian?

A brother asked that question Sunday evening — a couple of verses of Scripture came immediately to mind, and more have come since that tine. I will put those thoughts down on the computer screen. I believe they give a good picture of what should characterize a true Christian, and while I acknowledge that it is not given to us to know the heart of another person yet the Bible says “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

The first sign is love, love to God and love to our fellow men. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35) He also told us to love our neighbour as ourselves and when He was asked “Who is my neighbour?”, He told a story that had as its hero a man that the questioner would have felt duty-bound to despise. In other words, if we claim to be followers of Jesus Christ there should not be anyone whom we cannot love. And this love is the best outward evidence of our love to God.

Next would be the fruit of the Spirit. If we claim to be a child of God and to have received the Holy Spirit, then the way we live and the way we react to the people and situations we encounter should demonstrate not only love, but also joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness and all the other qualities mentioned. The Scriptures (Galatians 5:22-23 & Ephesians 5:9) do not speak of fruits, as though we could pick some and not the others, but of a singular fruit which has all these characteristics.

Another sign is that a Christian will not be in love with the world and the things of the world (1 John 2:15-17), nor will his way of thinking be patterned after the thinking and spirit of the times in which he lives (Romans 12:2).  There should be clear evidence of submission to the will of the Lord: “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46)

Thus if we meet someone who appears to be on fire for the Lord and filled with joy, yet also exhibits a passionate love for the things of the world and a craving for the approval of the world, there are some legitimate questions which need to be asked.

Likewise, if we encounter someone who is very scrupulous in his avoidance of anything which could be considered worldly, yet is openly critical of all who do not live as he does, we need to enquire if there is a genuine, active, connection to God.

Would to God that all those who name the name of Christ could be truly filled with the joy of the Lord, love for everyone they meet, have no attachment to earthly things, and never be troubled by the thought that this makes them better than other people.

Thou shalt love

God tells us nine times in the Holy Bible to love our neighbour as ourself, two times to love a stranger as ourself, five times to love God, and husbands are twice commanded to love their wives.

Pop culture tells us that love is a feeling that sometimes comes and sometimes goes.  Is love really that dependent on our feelings?  Or is it possible for us choose to love and expect that choice will enable us to experience the feeling that we call love?

My wife and I have been married for over forty years.  There have been times when we definitely did not have that loving feeling.  Sometimes we have experienced feelings of anger, resentment, frustration, bitterness.  What would we have gained if we had decided to just give up during those times?  What would we have lost?

Our relationship today is better than it has ever been.  Plus we have grandchildren who seem to think we are pretty nice people.  It has required some self-denial, some apologies, some times of repentance to get here, but it has been worth it.

The same is true for our relationships with other people.  We have left a few churches because we thought they were on the wrong track.  We still meet members of those churches on occasion and we meet as friends, without hostility or bitterness.

We have been members of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite for almost 34 years and have lived in congregations in three provinces.  There have been rough patches, the fault has been as much ours as anyone else, but there is a bond of love that draws us together.  We meet people we haven’t seen for thirty years and the bond is still there.

Yes, I believe love is a choice and the feeling will follow.  If that were not possible, God would not have commanded us to love, and repeated that command so many times and in so many different ways.

I believe there are a couple of adjectives we should use to describe true love: durable and robust.  Those words may not sound very romantic, but they are a great asset to a true romance.  A love that is durable and robust will not break down the first time it is bumped.  It will not soon wear out with the wear and tear of ordinary daily life.  And when it does break down, it will be easy to repair.  Such a love will last a lifetime.  Charity never faileth.

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