Be The Anchor!
Be The Neighbor!
Be the One Who Goes & Does Mercy!
"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
The story of the good Samaritan is pretty famous. A lot of people know the gist of the story: a man gets beat up and left for dead alongside the road. A priest comes down the road, sees the half-dead man and walks by on the other side. A temple-worker comes down, same deal. And then a Samaritan comes down the road, sees the guy, bandages the guy up, takes him to a hotel and pays for room and board. Everybody knows that the Samaritans and Jews hated each other for racial and religious reasons. So it was a pretty shocking and disturbing story that Jesus told.
So what's the application? Stop and help people along the road? Be a do-gooder? Name rescue helicopter's after the Samaritan? Is the story about emergency situations? Is it about one time disaster relief? Probably not...
If you read Luke's version of the story carefully, you'll note that the expert in the law asks a very interesting question to get the whole story going: "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Or: what must I do to go to heaven when I die? That's the simple translation into our vernacular. Jesus returns the question with a question. The law-expert answers Jesus by citing the Shema and the Neighbor Law. Jesus announces that the man answered correctly: "Do this and you will live."
Jesus just explained how to go to heaven when we die: Love God will all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and Love your neighbor as yourself. Essentially Jesus is saying, if you love God and your neighbor in this life, you'll love life in the age to come. If you don't love God and your neighbor in this life, you'll not want to inherit eternal life. You don't want to go to heaven when you die if you don't love God or your neighbor in this life, since the point of being in heaven is being with God and your neighbors. If you don't love God now, during this brief life, how is it you'll want to love God for eternity?
The expert in the law discerns that Jesus has just made it harder to get into heaven, so he asks a follow up question: who is my neighbor?He's hoping that Jesus will narrow down the list, thus making it easier to gain assurance that heaven will be home after death. But here's the flip side of the question: the expert wants to know who he DOESN'T have to love and still get into heaven. Jesus, being the brilliant guy that he is, sees what is going on and gives the story of the good Samaritan as the answer to the question: who is my neighbor?
But then Jesus does this really interesting twist: instead of the neighbor being the recipient of love (as stated in Leviticus 19v18), the neighbor is the one who does the loving. Jesus rephrases the command like this: Be the neighbor who loves. After telling the Samaritan story, Jesus asks the lawyer who was the neighbor to the beat up guy. According to the Leviticus verse, Jesus should have asked: who was the one who loved the beat up neighbor.
Here's the thing: God is merciful to the wicked and the kind, we are to be merciful just as our Father is merciful. God has become our neighbor, through Jesus he has moved into our neighborhood. Just as Jesus is the neighbor who loves, so we are to be the neighbor who loves. When we see a need, when we see a need for mercy, when we see an opportunity to do mercy, we are to do it. We are to be the neighbor. We are to be creative, intelligent, enduring in our work to be merciful just like our Father is merciful...to us. Obviously we'll need God's Spirit to help us figure out how to do this in the moment to moment stuff of life...but that's kind of the point.
If you want to be an anchor for your family and friends: be the neighbor who does mercy. Everytime. Everywhere. At home. At work. At school. At church. If you want to go to heaven when you die, be merciful. Don't make excuses, just do it. Don't let your exhaustion, your busyness, your distractions, your prejudices, your anxieties keep you out of heaven, don't let them stop you from doing mercy when you see a need for it. In those moments when you want to pass by on the other side for "legitimate" reasons, trust God's Spirit to help you figure out what He wants you to do in that moment. Trust him to know you, your situation, your capabilities, and that he will help you know what to do.
This week: Be The Anchor - Be the Neighbor who goes and does Mercy!