Suppose a pollster from the George Gallup organization came into your neighborhood and asked: "If you had to pick the ideal family, who on this block would you choose? Which neighbors are always there to help when the need arises? Who has the happiest, most well-mannered children?"
Would your family be selected as the ideal example of friendliness and helpfulness, or are you and your family almost an unknown in your community?
Sadly, some who are members of God's Church have tended to withdraw from the world around them. They have been reluctant to meet others in the community or even to show helpfulness to their neighbors next door.
Perhaps part of the reason is a fear of being corrupted by the world and its sinful influence. A Christian is one whose new citizenship is in heaven he has been called out of the world.
But have we stressed coming out of the world, overcoming sin, abstaining from improper social customs to the degree that we have overlooked our Christian duty to our neighbor?
Christ said: "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:14-16).
If we try to keep separate from the world to the extent that we hide our light, we are defeating the very reason we are Christians — to be a witness to the world.
Preaching the Gospel and being a light necessitates an association with the unconverted. Jesus said, "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil" (John 17:15). Further, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). The nonconverted world must see genuine concern expressed in our words and actions.
Christ went about doing good to all kinds of people during His earthly ministry. Much of His ministry required a close interaction with people considered worldly and sinful.
"And it came to pass, that as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him" (Mark 2:15).
When He was criticized for it by the Pharisees, Jesus explained: "They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance!" (Mark 2:17).
Jesus knew that the influence of God's Holy Spirit in Him combined with His own example would have a wholesome impact on those around Him. He came as the light of the world to show the right and proper works of God as an example to all people — and to lead sinners to repentance (John 1:9).
The pure, upright examples of Christ's followers today can have just as strong and dynamic an influence.
As Jesus charged His disciples centuries ago, so are we charged today, "I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit" (John 15:16).
If we become spiritual hermits and withdraw our love and concern from the world, thus neglecting to exemplify God's way in a proper manner, we are failing in our responsibility.
The apostle Paul wrote, "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10).
"That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world" (Phil. 2:15).
We have a responsibility to allow the "light of the glorious gospel of Christ" (II Cor. 4:4) to shine out to others.
If we are truly close to God — drinking in of His Holy Spirit — we can rise above this world's influence. With God working mightily in us, there is nothing to fear. "Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (I John 4:4). The sin of this wicked society should not drag the Christian down. Rather, he should be able to help lift up the sinner from his agony, misery and heartache, and demonstrate to him a. better way.
It means having neat homes and well-behaved children. It means being the first to smile and to extend a friendly greeting. It means sharing vegetables from your garden, babysitting when a mother is sick, running an errand for the elderly.
In other words it means getting right down to a warm and friendly one-on-one contact — expressing a true regard for neighbor in terms of genuine kindness and friendship.
By using God's Spirit we can radiate the life of Christ in us. Setting this kind of example would guarantee the pollster from George Gallup would hear:
"The most neighborly family? Why, it's that Church of God family down the street. Everybody in this neighborhood would tell you that."