Having trouble with your neighbors? Why? This article will show you the reason and give you a positive plan to guide you in living the happy, abundant and exemplary life that God intended.
Enraged at the evangelists, the bloodthirsty mob brought them to the city officials crying, "... These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also" (Acts 17:6). With these words, the angry Jews at Thessalonica accused the apostle Paul and his helpers of the same thing of which many of you have been accused. Does true Christianity turn the world "upside down" or right side up? Is the Holy Spirit the spirit of a peculiar mixture of misguided religious zeal, unreasoning superstition and a rebellious attitude toward custom, society and other people in general? Is this the attitude of a good Christian? Let's face facts! Some of our brethren have been accused of such wrong attitudes and conduct. Sometimes the accusation is clearly false, but sometimes it is based on fact! How should Christians live to gain the respect of unconverted neighbors and friends? In spite of persecutions, how can we live the joyous, fruitful kind of lives that we should? Let's look into God's Word for the answers and use sound-minded wisdom to understand.
Are you a 'light'?
Jesus told His disciples, "Ye are the light of the world..." And later, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:14, 16). Jesus taught that we are not to put our light under a bushel, but on a candlestick where all can see. But how do we let our light shine before men? Notice that Jesus said men would see our good works and glorify God (verse 16). He didn't say that they would hear our constant prating about the Bible. Our "good works," our kindness and thoughtfulness to others, our willingness to sacrifice, our Christian example in daily living, these things will cause even unconverted men to admire and respect us. Eventually, they will realize that it is God who is helping us live this way. Then they will glorify Him. But arguing, disputing and trying to convince people they are wrong is nowhere referred to as good works. If a friend or relative isn't interested in God's truth, he will in no way be helped if you constantly plague him with what he regards as "your religion." But what type of good works should you demonstrate in this modern day?
In John 14:11, Jesus said, "Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake." He was referring to the miracles that He performed and said in verse 12 that one who truly believed on Him would perform even greater works. Most of Jesus' miraculous works were acts of kindness to others — healing the sick, feeding the multitudes, casting out unclean spirits. Paul wrote the Corinthian brethren, "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular" (I Corinthians 12:27). Today, Jesus is not here to perform good works in person, but we of God's true Church comprise His Body through which He can and does perform miraculous works. Many times, unconverted friends of our brethren have been forced to glorify God and His power when they have witnessed a genuine, miraculous healing according to God's promise. If we draw as close to God as we should, through constant study, prayer and fasting, He will grant us the power to do the same miraculous works as the early apostles, and many others will learn to glorify God. But aside from these miraculous works of the ministry, there are many things that we should all be doing to glorify God in our lives.
Be a good neighbor
One of the most beautiful parables of Jesus that we all learned as children, but sometimes seem to forget as adult Christians, is the story of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). Set upon by thieves, a poor fellow lay wounded and suffering by the roadside. A priest passed by, feeling too holy to be bothered. A compassionate Samaritan was not too "good" to help a fellow he had never seen before. Notice Jesus' instruction: "Go, and do thou likewise." Just how good a neighbor are you? This is a vitally important factor in determining your ability to be a light to others and, incidentally, in determining your own happiness. You should realize from the outset that carnal-minded friends and neighbors are just naturally going to have a bad opinion of you — a true Christian trying to keep all of God's commandments — against which their carnal minds rebel. They are going to look upon you as peculiar or fanatical unless you take positive action to counteract this attitude. The solution to this problem is to prove by positive action that these things are not true. Go out of your way to be a really wonderful neighbor. Remember that Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). The chief attributes of God's Holy Spirit are love, joy, peace, long-suffering (Galatians 5:22). Put the love of God to work in your life. Try to be understanding, patient and always ready to be of service to others. Cultivate the attitude of joy and peace at all times. Try to make others feel happy in your presence. God is more willing to give you of His Spirit — His love, joy and peace — than you are to feed your own hungry children. Ask God to help you show more love, to give you His love and to help you be a better neighbor in every way. Then, with God's help, make your neighbors like and respect you by your good works — your kindness, love and willingness to help in time of need. This will never be accomplished by your words, but by your actions.
One of the most striking mistakes of some new converts is their failure to show a positive attitude toward life. Because they have come to realize that much of this world is wrong, they assume a negative attitude toward life in general. They don't take a real interest in their family, their friends or their community. Is this the way to be a light — the kind of example others will admire? No. Instead of being against everything, strive to be for something. Have a positive program of developing your personality, your capabilities, your ability to help and influence other people for good. James tells us, "... Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith?... " (James 2:5). Many of us are poor humble people when God calls us. Some have not had many educational opportunities and are handicapped in their speech and writing, their knowledge of this world about us and in many of the social graces. Does God wish us to remain this way? First of all, we have to confess that if we had all been highly successful in this world, we would have been too proud to accept God's truth and be converted. We would have had too much self-confidence to recognize our need for God. But now that should all be changed. Now our confidence should rest in God, and what He can do through us if we yield to His Spirit. Now that our confidence about any abilities rests in God not self — wouldn't He want us to develop these? Jesus said, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). We are to strive to become like God in every way. Through God's help, we will finally achieve this goal when we are born of God in the resurrection. Jesus was God in the flesh, setting a perfect example for us to follow. Did Jesus use sloppy speech or dress? Did He appear "backwoodsy" or uncouth to others? In Luke 4:22, we find that when Jesus spoke in the synagogue, "... all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth..." They were forced to admire Jesus' ability in speech even though they later condemned what He said and tried to throw Him off the brow of a hill (verse 29). In reading the gospel, it is easy to discern that Jesus was a natural leader of men. He was a person that people would naturally be forced to admire, even though the Jews hated what He taught so much that they crucified Him. Are you developing the qualities of personality, of leadership? Are you able to deal with and influence people of all classes? The apostle Paul said, "I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" (I Corinthians 9:22). You should try to do your work the best way possible, to keep your home and yard looking as neat and clean as possible, to dress as well as possible within your means. You should study to use really good English, to broaden your interests and your general knowledge, to develop your personality and abilities in every way. God says to develop your talents, to be like Him in every way! By doing these things, your neighbors will notice the change for good in your life and will be forced to respect you more.
Show common sense
Many fail to realize that, "... God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (II Timothy 1:7). Instead of demonstrating these qualities in their lives, they proceed in a hesitant, apologetic or sometimes a belligerent attitude to try to talk people into some of their beliefs. Humanly, we all tend to do these things, and it is hard to overcome them. But God has given us the Spirit of power to do so! From now on, instead of being down on the world in all your talk and actions, try to show the world by action that you have found something better. Show your neighbors that your faith works for good by doing good to them. Through God's Spirit within you, live up to what you believe and set a shining example before others. They may not agree with all your doctrine, but they will respect the results you achieve in your life. Try hard not to give others the impression that you are odd or peculiar. Your job is to show them the Spirit of a sound mind in everything you do. If people do ask you questions concerning your belief — which they will if you are living it — be prepared by diligent study to give them the answer in a nonargumentative, clear and common sense way; Show them that God's way makes sense — and is based on a law of love that would prevent war, murder and most of humanity's troubles, if it were only taught and obeyed. But only tell people what they ask you about. Don't try to force too much new truth upon them all at once. Just show them by your words and actions that God's way is based on common sense and a sound mind. Even though you will still be persecuted by many, this positive attitude in Christian living will gain you new respect in your community. You may then be a positive influence for good. More important, this way of living faith and action will give your own life more meaning, interest and joy, and will prepare you to better serve as a king and priest under Christ throughout life eternal. Use it.