This message is part of a series entitled, “God Tries His Children”. To see all of the messages in this series, please click here.
Many see Jesus’ commandments to love one another, love our neighbor and even love our enemies as unique to the New Testament. Ladies and gentlemen, we have to face the fact that the love of God is taught throughout the scriptures, and the love we are to have one to another as humans is equally taught in both the Old and New Testaments. Abraham took in the three traveling strangers as they were on their way to Sodom to destroy it. Scripture tells us we do not know who we may be entertaining at our campsite.
The cities of refuge in Numbers 35 are great illustrations of how we are to help one another. If one is in the city, the accuser cannot hurt him. The cities were founded to take in wanderers seeking refuge from an accuser. They are given food, water and shelter regardless of their supposed crimes. They may be innocent. No one in the city can count them as guilty until a proper court judged them. Only then could they be turned out.
We get our concepts for trial by jury from these passages. Where “the congregation” as a whole determines the guilt of one, we adopted a group of 12 jurors of one’s peers. The number 12 was not arbitrary either. One juror or representative from each of the 12 tribes of Israel makes the determination. We should note that provision and shelter are never in question. Their ability to stay was only affected by a judged guilt for a wrong perpetrated against another. Those being put out of the city were put out because the leadership determined their guilt. They were only given refuge until their judgment was finalized. Still, even a guilty murderer could be permitted to stay in the city. Granted, these determinations were normally based upon an assessment of accidental death, regardless the guilty would not be put out if the congregation judged in their favor.
One might ask what all this has to do with a test of our bearing one another’s burdens. It is simple. Every person in the city of refuge knew they would house and feed individuals who sought justice. Another issue is that even those we may hate are required to receive our compassion. How much more compassion are we to display for the innocent? The justice system of the United States was designed as a city of refuge system. The jails and their protection from outside as well as inside are supposed to provide that. Neither irate family members nor vigilantes can get to the accused. We should be a city of refuge, not just for some accused of crime, but for all those we claim to love. Greater than that, we should bear their burdens and willingly do so.
Where we opened to the Old Testament book of Isaiah last week, this week we go further back to the Pentateuch. We move first to Exodus 23:4-5. Then we will open to Deuteronomy 22:4. Please look at Exodus 23:1 and we will read our opening scriptures today.
Our Lord told us we could find Him and His motivations for ministry, life and service to the Father in the books known as the law of Moses and the prophets. When we look at Jesus, we should not find some new theology for the Jews and the Gentiles as opposed to that which was before. Instead, we should find the living exposition of those truths.
We look at Jesus’ arguments against the Pharisees and often we say, “They made so many extra rules for the Jews that over burdened them. Jesus’ ministry freed them from those rules.” That is true. However, we find there is a greater truth in that everything Jesus teaches is documented in the Old Testament.
The teaching in these verses is why we find James writing: “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” This good that is done can be anything. Many people believe it is someone else’s responsibility to ask them to help. They do not want to be the young man beaten by the elderly lady as he pulls her across the street. That illustration does not say to do nothing. It says we should serve properly and in wisdom.
Our first passage follows laws dealing with people’s possessions and how we should respect them. These first verses specifically address how we should deal with individuals with whom we might be in some legal battle.
This is the heart of the gospel, ladies and gentlemen. We can love as He loved and give as He gave. We are supposed to be conformed to the image of Jesus. Romans 5:6-9 tells us how Jesus handles these things:
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”
Ladies and gentlemen, Jesus is only showing us what it is that He will do, and what it is that He has done for us. We have to understand we submit to the Lord in all ways when we bless our enemies. This is true of those we may have angst towards, but more so for those whom we know have angst toward us.
I. Bearing the burdens of those who hate you (Exodus 23:5)
When we consider the greater lessons in scripture such as the example of the Good Samaritan, we often miss the finer details of the picture (Lk 10:33-37). In the passage describing the Good Samaritan, we find that he actually just left the man there in the inn and asked the keeper to place everything on his own account. The individual that the Samaritan helped was injured and needed medical attention. Still, the individual could have taken great advantage of the Samaritan. Those thoughts never crossed his mind though. He did not concern himself with self-preservation or protection against abuse. There is no record in scripture that this individual who helped him then thought, “Oh, he’s a Jew, I’d better not tell the inn keeper I’m a Samaritan, or he might refuse (or take unwarranted advantage of) me.” None of these concocted fears entered into his mind. Scripture is very straightforward:
- He came upon him
- He felt compassion
- He bandaged him
- He administered first aid (poured oil and wine on his wounds)
- He loaded him on his beast
- He conveyed him to the inn
- He paid for current lodging
- He promised payment and continued care upon his return
This Samaritan must have been a man known to the innkeeper because he said, “When I come again.” The Jew did not know the Samaritan, but the innkeeper did. They worked together to care for someone they did not even know. One man cared with bandages, medicine and a little funding. The other provided these needs when compensated. Neither expected the Jewish man to pay a thing.
Equally, we do not find that the Samaritan wanted to know the total paid for any reason other than to pay the bill. There is no indication that he would require this individual to pay his own way. There is no indication that the Jewish man talked to the Samaritan about his plight. The Samaritan saw an injured man in need on the side of the road, had compassion for his needs and cared for them. He did so simply because of compassion and no other reason.
We frequently forget what a wonderful blessing it can be for some people to just give. We often skip over a blessing we can have from giving. This Samaritan obviously knew this and relished the opportunity to give.
An even more convicting lesson exists in our Exodus passage. We begin with some basics in verse 1; you do not lie about people. You should never join with individuals to witness against someone for malicious purposes. This passage tells us we should never comport ourselves in such a way that we are spiteful or hateful for what we might do, or what we might say. Verse 2 says that we are also not supposed to follow groups that compose evil, purport evil or enjoy evil crowds. At issue here is that we are easily led into evil when there is a prevailing example of it which many follow. Just because the masses follow, does not make evil right. We could consider that those who followed may not have seen the evil for what it was. Nevertheless, the scripture says it is evil.
We should not publicly dispute people in order to have some turn away from them and have justice perverted. It should never be an effort focused upon ostracizing an individual. Further, we are not to be overly sympathetic to the poor or destitute. Just because someone is poor, one should not over-embellish his or her need for gain. Jesus spent most of His time caring for these individuals but to give them any greater position over anyone who is spiritually in need is wrong. We should show favoritism to no one. Every soul out there needs the gospel.
The first thing we notice in verse 5 is that this is about an individual’s animal, not about the person. The second thing we notice is that this person is familiar. Beyond that, it is someone whom you know hates you.
In the Jewish culture of those days, animals were highly valuable much like in the old West. In today’s terms, think of this donkey as a large flat bed trailer. In fact, this is the only trailer you have and it not only carries all your goods to and from market, but it also carries all your family’s groceries. Imagine living five miles back in the mountains. There is a road back there, and this is the one-flatbed trailer that can make it on that road. That is this donkey.
The power of Christ is amazing. Christians can move past differences in order to bless anyone in their path. As Christians, we can love as Christ loved and have His blessing on us for doing so. Jesus loved unconditionally. Jesus loved through wickedness. Jesus loved because He chose to love. We love because Jesus loved us. We love because we know what was given for us in love. This is someone who hates you, yet you choose to bless his animal with assistance and ensure that he receives his goods back in good order.
Christian, you are to bless those who curse you and curse not. Here we can show God’s selfless love to everyone we come across, even our most ardent enemy. You can do that with Christ. We can pick up the burden of others and help them even if we hate them. We already know we are to give selflessly to those who love Christ. Think how much more blessing comes from loving those who hate you because you love Christ. How much more blessed are you that you might care for that person’s goods, their animals and all they have? Truly, those are the blessings we should covet in heaven.
Second Timothy 1:7 tells us that God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of sound mind (discipline). God wants us to operate in His power, out of His love with discipline. He wants us to be unwavering, not emotional. We are tempted to not bear the burden of those who hate us because we do not want confrontation. In the power of God and through His love all things are possible. We are blessed when we bear their burden. Equally, we show the love of Christ in us who gave Himself for us while we were at enmity with God (Jam 4:4).
When we do not respond properly to loved ones, that is one thing. It is sinful and we should seek God’s greatness to soften our hearts. When we do not deal with those who hate us in a right fashion, that too should convict us. We have to be moved to scriptural responses.
We have had Jon Gleason here before. He pastors a church in Scotland. I recently read a post of his that describes how we believers should react when faced with seeing our sins. This is a quote from Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest:”
“If the Spirit of God detects anything in you that is wrong, He doesn’t ask you to make it right; He only asks you to accept the light of truth, and then He will make it right. A child of the light will confess sin instantly and stand completely open before God. But a child of the darkness will say, “Oh, I can explain that.” When the light shines and the Spirit brings conviction of sin, be a child of the light. Confess your wrongdoing, and God will deal with it. If, however, you try to vindicate yourself, you prove yourself to be a child of the darkness.”[i]
We talked about 1 John 1:9 some years ago. If we confess our sins and God is faithful to forgive us.
We are called to remain steadfast in Christ, and in the face of our enemies. We are supposed to bear their burdens in the love that only Christ can give. We can do this because Jesus lives within us. Where the past passage was about those who hate us, this passage simply discusses our fellow countrymen. What are we to do for them?
II. Bearing the burdens of fellow countrymen (Deuteronomy 22:4)
Does the scripture tell us to help bear the burdens of our fellow Americans? God gave Israel instructions concerning their humanity and how it should be manifest. These are called “sundry” laws, or we could say various laws governing general life. The Exodus passage we just studied is considered one of those same types of laws.
Beginning in Deuteronomy 22:1, we are told to care for our fellow countryman’s needs. It should be as important as caring for our own. The Hebrew word for “brother” here is very general and can apply to any one. It is easy to apply this not just to our countrymen, but also to anyone whom we find needing assistance. Once again, when we look at the Old Testament as opposed to the New, we want to think of it as a very hard and unloving law. However, an honest inspection will net great truths. Right here in the Pentateuch we find Jesus’ admonition to love our neighbor as ourselves.
This is what we might call a simple act of common courtesy. Where we would like someone to care for our animals in our absence, we should naturally do the same. We should care for things of others when we see their need. We’ve picked up the newspapers from the front porch of a neighbor without their asking, after we saw three or four stack up. We’ve taken in mail for others in their absence when we saw it piling up. You do simple things to help your neighbor.
I remember one time seeing police officers in Riverton pushing a car back into a parking space. It had rolled out of the slot and stopped in the lane. I remember thinking I was happy that they moved the vehicle back so people could pass through the parking lot. It never occurred to me that they were performing a function that anyone who saw the car should have performed. Still, here it is in scripture. If we see something like this, we should take the time to take care of our neighbor. The Jamieson, Faussett and Brown commentary says this is not just a common courtesy, but to ignore the responsibility is a violation of divine law. We should take care of other’s properties until the proper owner can be determined and the goods restored to them. [ii]
We thought, “finders keepers, losers weepers” was the rule. This could not be farther from the truth. We cannot presume to take full possession of something that does not belong to us. I was with my boys just outside of Franklin, West Virginia, one day. I saw a wallet in the middle of the road. We pulled over and picked it up. There was a large amount of money, a number of credit cards, a license and other identifying information in it. With the boys in the truck, we went to the State Police and turned it in.
I have never been in the cattle business but I understand that competition is very fierce. The scripture tells us to care for one another’s animals and bring them back in good health. In verse four, this comes closer to home. The hue and cry of many today is not to get involved. We are admonished that if it is none of our business, we had better stay out of it. If we find someone’s conveyance and materials, we are actually supposed to care for them. In today’s world, we might think this is unrealistic. If we found a trailer along the road with a blown tire, are we really expected to fix the tire and tow the trailer to safety then contact the owner. According to the scripture, if you have the ability to do so, yes. You might get into some trouble with the police if you do not notify them. I make it a practice to call the police, notify them of any of these things and make sure they know. We have made many a phone call to 911 while on the road. They charge for those things, but I see no other way to handle them properly. Since we now have a vehicle that can tow many things, we may have more opportunity to help others. However, we are usually already towing something.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have to make good decisions, but they should be oriented toward fulfilling our requirements in scripture and never directed toward trying to ignore our responsibility. Scripture says we cannot hide from these responsibilities. You cannot just move on and pretend to not see them.
Where we develop fear to deal with things like this, we have to remember the same verse that was given to us from above. Second Timothy 1:7 says:
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
We may be fearful, but that fear does not come from God. It comes from the father of the lost in this world. His deception and desires still have a grip on our hearts. Fear more frequently than not stems from a lack of faith. God tells us to be of good courage. In fact, God mentions that we should be courageous over 300 times in scripture. It is an important aspect of the Christian life.
The test today is packaged well in James 4:17, which reads:
“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
If you know what that good thing is that you should do, and you choose not to do it, you sin. That good thing could be helping another person’s animal bear the weight of its load home to its master. It could mean caring for an animal and the person’s possessions that you found even though you know that individual hates you. It could simply be caring for others in need that you do not know. Whatever it is, we are supposed to do it without dissimulation (Rom 12:9).
If we are going to be like Jesus, if we are going to love as Jesus loved, we should resolve ourselves to care for those same people that Jesus gave His life to save. We are commanded to pray for those who despitefully use us (Lk 6:28). No matter how we try to slice it, we cannot get away from love. The best form of love we can give is the love born through Jesus Christ. Our test to bear the burdens of others is that we do so strictly for the Lord, fearlessly on His behalf. We help others as He helped us and gave Himself for us. Jesus loves everyone unconditionally. He asks is that you love everyone unconditionally too.
How does Christ love? He said of those parting His garments while He hung on the cross, “Forgive them father for they know not what they do.” He loves us so much that, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” We are not perfect, but we should strive for Christ’s perfect love that does not operate on emotion, or reason its way out of giving assistance. Christ’s love operates on decision regardless of circumstance.