This morning my family and I visited the San Jose Church of Christ in Jacksonville, Florida, and the message from their preacher really resonated with me. He read a story most of us are familiar with. We find it in Luke chapter 10. It is the parable of the Good Samaritan.
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37 ESV)
I love this story, and the way Jesus turns a loaded question to a teaching moment. First, a little context. The Jewish people looked at Samaritans as lower than Jewish society. In other words, in Jesus time Samaritans were of a lower class to the Jews. Now with that context this story really comes alive.
Jesus is asked what is needed to inherit eternal life, and what are written in the laws. When the Jewish lawyer recited a summation of the Jewish law, he then asked Jesus, who is my neighbor”? (v 29) Jesus began the all familiar story of the Good Samaritan. Again keep in mind how the Jewish people in Jesus day looked at the Samaritans. Jesus asked this man, which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” (v 36) The Jewish man cannot even admit the hero of the story was a Samaritan.
You see the teaching moment in this story is that no matter what this Jewish man thought of others (like Samaritans), they were his neighbors, and according to the law he was to love his neighbor.
Last Wednesday night I attended a Bible class, and someone said the only real response to all of the division we have in our world today is love. How right he was. It starts with those who follow Jesus. In today’s sermon, Joel brought this idea home when he said God showed us undeserving love. God could have left us on our own after we sinned, but he showed us undeserving love by healing our wounded relationship with him by sending his son to the cross.
Can you imagine how wonderful this world would be if we (Christians) showed all the undeserving love of God. Can you imagine how much less division we would see on earth if we took the first step by not limiting the love God showed us to those we think is worthy, and love all.
As I listened to today’s sermon, First Corinthians 13 came to mind. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing”.(1 Corinthians 13:1-3). You see we can live a righteous life, but if we don’t love we are just noise to our God.
My prayer is that we all take the first step in loving our neighbors. That we show the love God showed us. The love we did not deserve. Prove that the only real response to the hate we see in America, and in the world is full unfiltered love.