Have you ever got out of bed, put your clothes back on, and went out late at night to help someone in distress? I bet most of us have. That's what neighbors do.
Genuine religion shows compassion to hurting people, to those among us who are the most vulnerable. It is always right for the strong to support the weak. In fact, love is phony if it does not help when it sees a brother in need.
In those three sentences, I just paraphrased three different verses from the New Testament. It sure seems that God wants us to show kindness to people, doesn't it? But mercy in action is more than mere lip service. It can be costly. Showing unselfish love is often quite inconvenient.
Here is a tough Bible quote: "Whoever knows to do good, and does not do it, to him it is a sin." Did it ever occur to you that by simply turning a blind eye, you became guilty? Once you see a need, and have the power to fix it, you can't plead ignorance. So sin may be either a trespass (doing what is wrong) or it may be an omission (neglecting to do what is right).
Motives are important. We can wrongly judge because we don't see what God sees. God is just but He is not religious. For example, Jesus healed on the Sabbath. He said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."
He didn't do away with the Sabbath law; He just put it into proper perspective. The Ten Commandments still stand. When the Pharisees tried to kill Him for this good deed, Jesus scolded them. They had put religious rules ahead of love and mercy.
It is a sad fact that religion can be a cover-up for prejudice and an excuse for showing anger. The most religious people in the world are also the most murderous. Historically, any religion, once it was defiled, usually became a killer.
Real religion should never be an excuse for hating other people. Pure and undefiled religion has these signs: giving, praying, and helping through actions. Since goodness and mercy follow me (Ps 23), I must help the suffering whether the homeless in Oklahoma or the imprisoned in Tehran.
Ron Wood, Trinity Assembly of God (601-483-8189). Sunday on The Father's Power, Ron interviews an expert on Muslim outreach, Meridian's Mayor, and a Presidential historian. Listen at 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. on 103.3 FM.