September 14, 2010 • By Ed Wrather
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. - Proverbs 17:17 NKJV.
A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. - Proverbs 18:24 NKJV.
Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the rebellion of the workers of iniquity, who sharpen their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows - bitter words, that they may shoot in secret at the blameless; suddenly they shoot at him and do not fear. - Psalm 64:2-4 NKJV.
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. - John 15:13 NKJV.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8 NKJV.
Indians in the state of Rondonia in western Brazil have had a difficult existence in the last part of the 20th and into the 21st Century. They face pressures from those who want their land for assorted reasons. Several tribes are extinct, or close to being so; because of those pressures, which from what I read, may have even been murderous massacres. It is no wonder that one remaining member of a tribe that digs rectangular holes in the center of their tents (or used to), is reluctant to make contact with the outside. There was found what appeared to be a campsite of about 14 huts with the same rectangular holes in the center that had been bulldozed. Did I say that the remaining tribe member was reluctant to make contact with the outside world? The last government agent who came close to the lone tribesman was shot with an arrow that hit him in the chest. That last near contact was back in the 1990s.
There are lessons here for individuals and for churches. One of those lessons is that there have always been and always will be those who would harm us if they could for their own reasons. Sometimes those reasons are financial, sometimes those reasons may be that they simply enjoy hurting others, sometimes it is because of their prejudices, and other times it may be for some unknown reason. There are those who hate Christians, and who hate the church, and they will cause us harm if they have the opportunity.
Having in mind the known possibility of there being some people who are hostile to us and hostile to the church, how do we continue to move forward in fulfilling the Great Commission? As Jesus says in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.” There must be some balance in that we do not completely throw away caution; however, there will always be some risk involved in doing anything our Lord calls upon us to do. God may not call us to go to the lone member of this lost tribe in Brazil, but He may call us to go to our neighbor who lives next door.
Another lesson for us as individual Christians and churches is that we will not gain more friends, and we will not grow as churches by shooting arrows at people. When you have people who visit your church, or you visit them in their homes you must yourself “be friendly.” We may not shoot people with arrows today, but we may shoot off our mouths with words that are almost as deadly. When did Jesus lay down His life for us? He did it while we were still sinners, still enemies as one translation puts it. Our neighbors, our guests at church are likely not to be “perfect people” and they are likely not to be just like us. But Jesus still died for them, just as He died for us.
What do you think Jesus would have us to do? What does Jesus want you to do?