Spiritual Teachings -Love Thy Neighbor
It was a cold winter day when a young man entered the Baptist Church on Main Street for Sunday service. He had recently moved into the neighborhood.
The church was jam-packed; and the energy was charged. He walked to the middle of the church and saw an empty space. It was as if the spot had been waiting for his arrival. Friendly smiling faces greeted him as he moved towards the empty space.
Suddenly, there was silence. The Pastor started to speak.
“Thank you, my brothers and sisters for being here on this glorious day. Although it is bitter cold outside, there is immense warmth here today. I would like to start today’s sermon by saying the words of our Lord Jesus, 'Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.’ This statement is simple, yet very powerful. It is a message that teaches us to treat others the way we want to be treated. The message is about loving humanity. Yes, me loving you, you loving the person next to you, and so on. The capacity to love is inside all of us. All we need to do is unlock it and set it free. Let us close our eyes for a few seconds and release the love we have inside us. Allow your love to fill this holy place. Feel the love around you. As we continue to spread our love, God is shining his light upon us. Do you feel it? I cannot hear you. Do you feel it? ”
The roaring sound of the words yes and amen filled the church.
After a few more words, the Pastor guided the chorus into a song he had written. It was a beautiful song filled with many praises to the Lord.
When the service was over, the young man approached the Pastor and thanked him for an inspiring service. The Pastor smiled and said, “You’re new here. Welcome to the house of God. Come again, my son.” The young man smiled, said his farewells and walked away.
The young man had moved into the neighborhood because of its wide range of religious denominations. A Spiritualist Church was just a couple of blocks away from the Baptist Church. Two blocks away from the Spiritualist Church was a Roman Catholic Church. A Mosque, a Buddhist Temple, a Hindu Temple and a Synagogue were also in the vicinity. He planned to visit each one.
One day while walking down the street, he met the Pastor from the Baptist church. “Where have you been, my son? You have not attended Sunday services. Have you forgotten Our Lord Jesus?” the Pastor said.
Innocently, the young man smiled kindly and responded, “I have been visiting all of God’s houses in the neighborhood. It has been an interesting and valuable experience.”
Finding displeasure with the young man’s words, but maintaining his composure, the Pastor replied, “By visiting these other places, you are wasting valuable time. Satan is pulling your strings and keeping you away from the divine light of God. The true way to the kingdom of God is through our church. There you can find true salvation.”
The young man listened attentively without uttering a word. The Pastor continued to speak.
“The other day, I saw you entering the Spiritualist Church on Henry Street. The spiritual teachings of the Bible warns us that we should not attempt to contact spirits for there are great spiritual dangers in doing so. God clearly tells us that it is impossible for us to contact spirits. It’s Satan’s work to deviate man from reaching the kingdom of God. If you continue to visit their church, you will definitely be in the clutches of Satan. My son, save yourself and stop wasting time visiting these other places.”
There was a brief pause as if waiting for a response from the young man. Instead, the young man remained silent.
The Pastor resumed, “Next Sunday we are having a special service. We will be baptizing new members. I would like you to join us. Have you ever been baptized, my son?”
“Yes, a long time ago," replied the young man.
“What was the name of the church?” asked the Pastor.
“It was not a church, but it was done in the presence of God. Several people gathered at a nearby river where a humble man with much spiritual light baptized us in the name of God."
His statement appalled the Pastor. “You were not baptized, my son. The man was a charlatan and an instrument of Satan. I am afraid you were deceived.”
The young man replied respectfully and calmly, “I have to disagree with you. The man was neither a charlatan nor an instrument of Satan. He was a good man with much love for God."
“Nonsense, the man was not connected to any church, and more than likely had no credentials,” the Pastor exclaimed.
Once again, the young man smiled and stated, “I believe you are mistaken. God does not measure men by their credentials, or the church they belong to. He looks into their hearts and determines their worth."
The Pastor rudely interrupted him and said, “You are the one who is mistaken.”
Taking out a small bible from the inside of his jacket, he began to recite a passage.
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit, you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7:15-23."
The young man waited patiently for the Pastor to finish.
Steadily gazing at the Pastor, he said, "Because the man lacked credentials and was not a member of what you consider to be a bona fide church, you believe he was an instrument of Satan and a false prophet. What happened to the words from your sermon, ‘Treat others the way you want to be treated, or Love thy neighbor as thyself?’ It seems that your focus is on the person’s outer presentation and not on the person’s inner feelings and true love for God. How or where you worship God is not important. What is important is to worship God. He does not care if you worship him in a lavish church or impoverished broken down building. You can worship him anywhere. God is everywhere, and He sees and hears all. Didn’t He speak to Moses in Mount Herob? Why is it that God selects his messengers from the most humble of men, and not those who are well versed or possess credentials? Whether you are Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or Spiritist, you all belong to God’s family. You are all his children, and He loves you all the same.”
“As for contacting spirits, you said, ‘The bible warns us that we should not attempt to contact spirits for there are great spiritual dangers in doing so.' If you believe that to be true, then why do you call upon Jesus and God, the Father? Aren’t they spirits?”
“A poor illiterate man with a pure heart is more likely to enter the kingdom of God than a scholar with much insight on biblical passages,” the young man said further.
Overwhelmed by the young man’s discourse, the Pastor looked at him with much displeasure and rage. “Who are you to preach to me on matters of God or the bible? I have been a Pastor for thirty years and possess degrees in religious studies," he exclaimed.
“It is true that I am not a Pastor or possess any secular titles. I possess nothing, and yet I possess all. My greatest possession is my love for God. As for who I am, I have been called a holy man, a prophet, a messiah and a shepherd. Many say that I am the Son of God.”
Stunned by the young man’s revelation, the Pastor was speechless and motionless.
“Every Sunday, my spirit enters your church and fills it with spiritual light. I am the one you call out to and praise. I am Jesus. The man who baptized me was called John. His church was in his heart. He possessed no credentials or material wealth. He was a simple man who loved God with all his heart. He was a true messenger of God."
Suddenly, the young man transformed into the figure of Jesus. The Pastor was dumbfounded, and could not believe what was happening in front of him. As Jesus began to fade away slowly, his last statement was, "Remember, to be true to yourself and everyone else no matter how they choose to worship God. For you are all His children. I will be watching.”
The Pastor remained speechless and in awe. He began to weep. He was in the presence of greatness and did not know it. He had been tested and failed shamefully. He had always been a man with much to say, and now he could not utter a single word. The words ‘I will be watching’ began to play repeatedly in his mind.
From that day, the Pastor changed his ways of seeing and doing things. He was no longer rigid in his thinking, or viewed each religion as separate or inferior. Instead, he saw them as one unit linked together under God.
Additionally, he was preaching more from the heart. His sermons were full of words of compassionate, love, respect and goodwill. The words poured out of him with much ease. He was not just saying them; he was practicing what he was preaching. He embraced all of his brothers no matter what religious background they were from, and directed the members of his church to do the same.
Every Sunday, he concluded the service by saying, “Remember, Jesus is watching us.”
End of Spiritual Teachings. Hope you enjoyed the story as well as the paintings of Jesus Christ.
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