Christian Acts of Righteousness Serve Neighbors

There is a teen devotion book with an attractive title, If God Loves Me, Why Can’t I Get My Locker Open? Other than the title, I didn’t like the book very much, but the title serves very well to address the belief of many that if there is a God in heaven then there must be some help for the trouble in our lives. Does God really care about the fifteen-year-old freshman spinning the combination on her locker, late for class, sweating nervously, self-conscious, and on the point of tears? Does He care that Aunt Peggy, 85 years old, has to say goodbye to her little dog, who has been a faithful companion since Uncle Ben died? Does He care that people might think Him unmerciful?

First of all, the answer is, “Yes.” God’s name is hallowed when people know Him as He is, and that means they know Him as loving and gracious. Paul told the Lystrians (Acts 14) who were treating him and Barnabas like gods that they should already know something about God and His goodness, “Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17).

One witness to God’s goodness in the world is the blessings of His providence. Every good thing bears witness to the goodness of God, Who is good, and Whose mercy endures forever. Through His providence come all the joys of life, the beauty, the happiness, the contentment, the peace, the love, and the celebration. The very fact that these blessings come to all kinds of people is a witness to the grace of God, as Jesus said, “For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

Another providential witness to God is human vocation. Why should one person like to farm and another to pilot an airplane? Why should one person like to put pipes together and another to play music? It is part of God’s order to provide us with food and transportation, sanitary living conditions, and the lifting up of the heart. All useful and good vocations are God’s blessings to us.

And yet another witness is Christians. Christians certainly speak about Christ, but they also are people living for Christ. What more can we want for our children? What more can we want for ourselves than that we be a blessing to others and an honor to Him? While anyone serving in their vocation can be God’s blessing to others, Christian or not, the Christian serving his neighbor also serves Christ, loves Christ, and honors Christ.

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The Christian plumber sees Christ behind the frantic voice of the homeowner whose basement is the worse for plugged sewer lines. The Christian farmer sees Christ behind all the persons who will nourish their bodies through his crops. The Christian musician plays for Christ to hear. The Christian sophomore sees Christ in the frantic freshman who needs help with her locker. The Christian pilot sees Christ behind the exhausted family stuck on the plane because the terminal gates are snowed in. The Christian nurse sees Christ behind the more-lonesome-than-ever Aunt Peggy.

Vocation makes a difference in the world. It makes a difference in the world when Christians are a blessing to their neighbor and an honor to Christ. First, it makes a difference in the lives of the people who are touched. Drains get fixed. People are fed. Lockers get opened. Hearts are lifted up. There is a sympathetic voice from the cockpit for stranded travelers. Aunt Peggy has a friendly and sympathetic touch. But when this is done to the honor of Christ, not only do Christians see Christ in their neighbors, the neighbors see Christ in Christians, so that even when in trouble or catastrophe they will learn of the love of God in the only way that really says it all: “He did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all” (Romans 8:32).

Edward Bryant is pastor of St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Lombard, Illinois.

 

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