Monday, May 20, 2013

Like a good neighbor?

This week we're faced with Billy Graham giving good advice only to bottle it right at the end. Let's take a look...
Reach out to neighbors from another country

DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: We’d like to be friendly toward a family that moved into our apartment building a few months ago, but they’re from a foreign country and have a different religion, and we’re not sure what to do, if anything. Any suggestions? — V.B.
 First, I must say that VB's question is rather shocking. They claim that they want to be friends, but are allowing religion to stand in the way. Such a reason is rather silly. It feels like treating those of a different religion as if they are some sort of spooky boogie-man. Sorry, but allowing that to be such a barrier makes me wonder if the desire for friendship is genuine. Because someone just having a different religion shouldn't be a barrier at all.
DEAR V.B.: By all means, don’t ignore this family. It’s tragic when people from other countries come here to study or work, and end up feeling no one cares about them or wants to be their friend.

Instead, do all you can to reach out to them and let them know you care and want to help them. In other words, the most important thing you can do is to be friendly! After all, if you were in their situation, wouldn’t you feel lonely and want someone to be your friend?

What can you do? Begin by calling on them (perhaps with a little gift of food, or small toys for their children. Avoid, however, anything that might be misunderstood, such as food they wouldn’t eat in their culture or toy weapons.). Offer to help them with transportation, or babysitting, or make suggestions about places to shop. Don’t overwhelm them, but do ask God to help you be their friend.
Aside from the pointless 'ask God to help you be their friend', this is surprisingly good advice coming from Mr. Graham. If they really do want to be friends, they should act like it. Be friendly and see what they can do to be helpful and welcoming. So on this excerpt I have to agree will Graham. It doesn't happen often, but credit where credit is due.
Remember Jesus’ words in what we often call the Golden Rule: “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12).
 Jesus' Golden Rule? The Golden Rule was far from a new idea when Jesus reportedly said it.

What  about Confucius?  "Do not impose on others what you do not desire others to impose upon you." -500BCE

Herodotus? " if I choose I may rule over you. But what I condemn in another I will, if I may, avoid myself." -430BCE

In fact, Buddhist, Hindu, Zoroastrian and Greek, all had versions of the rule long before Jesus' version was placed in the Bible. In my opinion, Confucius' version is actually superior to Jesus' as well as being much older. Jesus says to do to others as you'd like done to you. So what if the 'you' is a masochist? Jesus' rule would suggest that this person should project their likes on others, ever though most other will not share in his preferences. Meanwhile, Confucius asks not to do to others what you would not wish others do to you. No one wants to be killed in cold blood, so don't. No one wants their belongings stolen, so don't steal from someone else.
In addition, ask God to help you reach out to them the same way he has reached out to us — in love and understanding and compassion. Seek to understand their needs, and learn more about their country and its customs. Most of all, ask God to give you opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them, both by your words and your example. 
And after on otherwise good answer, Billy erases it all with the final paragraph. If they want to be friends with their new neighbors, trying to convert them is not the answer. If you want to annoy them,  then go right ahead and proselytize away. These new neighbors are members of a different religion, so they likely don't want to heat a broken record of Jesus this and Jesus that. They are quite probably just as set in their religion as VB is in hers. So I'm sure they don't want their religion being questioned and discounted by their new neighbors. To do such a thing would actually go a long way toward making sure they don't become friends, rather than bring them together.

It was rather ironic that Graham brought up the Golden Rule. VB wouldn't want her religion questioned, so she shouldn't question the new neighbor's religion either. If friendship is the true goal, VB should just ignore the religion issue and do their best to be neighborly. That was the only advice needed Billy, so stop the pushy Christian act and just be friendly. Get to know people for who they are rather than fixating on religion, and a true friendship will be possible.

-Brain Hulk

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