The Torah’s good neighbor policy (Deuteronomy 22:1-4) was about more than simply making sure everyone’s lost ox, sheep, cloak or “anything else” (see v. 3) found its way back to its owner. It was about cultivating community. Lost animals or objects simply provided opportunities for relationships to be enhanced and grown. Not everyone would look at it this way, but that’s the way God wanted His people to view it.
When a clam, oyster or other member of the mollusk family gets something trapped in its soft tissue like a grain of sand, bacteria or even a food source, it secretes a protective substance around it, and this becomes a pearl. A pearl then is the mollusk’s response to the opportunity presented by the stimulant.
That’s exactly the way God wanted Israel to approach the “stimulants” that presented themselves in the opportunities to help their neighbor. If they were handled the right way, they could become pearls.
There is profound relational truth here. We are often under the impression that community is built through shared interests, spending time together and social media. Those things are all fine and certainly have their place, but the “pearl” of community is being there for someone in their time of need. It is having someone’s back and looking out for them.
Think about your biological family. You may or may not have shared interests, spend much time together or be active users of social media. But for most families, when you need them, they will be there for you. You know you can count on them. That is why when people want to brag about a community there are a part of, they don’t call it a club, a gathering or a social network — they speak of it as “family.”
This was God’s grand vision for Israel — that through honoring the opportunities that came their way through the natural course of life, they would create “pearls,” resulting in valued community. It is no less His vision for the church today. It doesn’t happen when we “follow” someone or are “friends” with them. It happens when we positively respond to opportunities to help and serve them. To do this is to follow Christ’s example, for He said, “I am among you as the one who serves,” (Luke 22:27).
We need more pearls.
Green has written a book on the model prayer called “Praying in the Reign.” It is available through 21st Century Christian.
Find more of his writings at his website: www.a-taste-of-grace-with-bruce-green.com.