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23 & 24 July 2022 (Pastoral Page) WILL YOU JOIN US TO BE GOOD NEIGHBOURS?

By Ms Goh Yi Ling

This was the invitation to you, The Bible Church, when we launched the Good Neighbours Initiative last year. This initiative was the culmination of a deepening conviction that as a church community, we are called to go beyond our church walls to bring the love of Jesus to every part of society – particularly, to vulnerable communities and those on the fringes.

The basis for this conviction is in Luke 10:25-37. Here, Jesus summed up the law with the Great Commandment – to love God and love your neighbour as yourself. When asked “who is my neighbour?”, Jesus told the parable of the storied Good Samaritan, who was ultimately regarded a “neighbour” to the man in need because he showed mercy. Jesus then exhorts, “Go and do likewise” (i.e. be a neighbour to all who are in need).

This mandate harks back to the oft-quoted Micah 6:8 – “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice [mishpat],and to love kindness [or mercy], and to walk humbly with your God?

In the Old Testament, mishpat frequently describes taking up the care and cause of widows, orphans, immigrants, and the poor – those called “the quartet of the vulnerable”. An example of this is Deuteronomy 10:18 – “[The Lord] defends the cause [mishpat] of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing”. Today, this group will include those who lack social power and live at subsistence level i.e. the migrant worker, the homeless, the ex-offender, the low-wage earner. We see then, that the concept of justice or mishpat is closely bound with loving one’s neighbour.

But mishpat is not merely about charity. Rather, it is the love and mercy we first received that compels us. As the Israelites were exhorted to care for the oppressed because of their own deliverance from slavery (Deuteronomy 24:17-18), we who have been lifted from spiritual poverty are to do likewise. To quote Timothy Keller in ‘Generous Justice’: a real encounter with God's grace makes us just. In other words, living justly (or loving our neighbour) is an outworking of true faith. James 2:15-17 states –

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Jesus himself was the perfect example. Throughout his ministry, he fed the hungry, cared for the invisible, fraternised with the marginalised. He did all that Israel had been mandated but failed to do. Finally, Jesus took upon himself the greatest injustice at the cross, out of his perfect mercy for us. In so doing, Jesus inaugurated God’s kingdom of shalom on earth – restoring broken people to wholeness (physically and spiritually) and right relationship with God, fellow man, and all creation.

Cornelius Plantinga Jr described shalom as –

The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. … In the Bible shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as the creator and savior opens doors and speaks welcome to the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things are supposed to be.

What then, is the task of Jesus’ followers? We are to be his hands and feet. We are to live out his gospel of justice, love, and mercy. We are to be ambassadors of his shalom. While complete shalom will only be realized in the consummated kingdom, we can bring a foretaste to those who fall through the cracks by loving them unreservedly as Jesus did.

We pray that you will capture this vision with us to bring the love of Jesus to the last, lost, and least. Will you join us to be Good Neighbours?

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