Saturday, January 2, 2016
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” ― Matthew 22: 36-40
The quote above should be the only one we really need. If we live it, embrace it, and show others the way to live it as well, then we will have done everything that God has asked to do and everything that Christ has called us to do. However, it doesn’t work if we define “neighbor” as only those who agree with us politically, those who go to the right church, those who read the Bible correctly, those who fight on the right side of the major issues as we see them, or only those whose skin color, nationality, language, customs, and cultures are just like our own. I’m pretty sure that’s how the church leaders wanted to define “neighbor” but Jesus wouldn’t let them. Instead, he told them a story. A leader of the church asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “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.” These words are in red in my Bible, and I’m a red-letter guy when it comes to the New Testament. I didn’t write that story, but I’m sure trying hard to live it. There are many modern analogies: an Israeli helping a Palestinian, a slave helping his white master, a concentration camp inmate helping a guard, and there are hundreds of others. You need to Google “Samaritan” to truly understand the radical impact of this story. It’s still pretty easy to figure out, the priest (minister, bishop, rabbi, imam—a visible leader of the church) walked on the other side of the road. A Levite (also a tribe of church leaders going back hundreds of years in history) also walked on the other side of the road. But the man who was scorned by society and hated by many, the Samaritan, he stopped and helped and went above and beyond what others might think would be required even incurring financial indebtedness and promising to pay whatever the cost. The picture at the right tells the story in much simpler terms. If we want peace, if we want to live in harmony with others, if we want to follow Christ as He intended us to follow Him—then we must do as the Samaritan did. It saddens me so to see friends on Facebook posting messages of hate about the beliefs, politics, and religion of each other. Christ calls us to love. Christ calls us to forgive. Christ calls us to help those who are in need of our help regardless of their nationality, color, language, customs, culture, political party, or theology/doctrine. If you want to see radical change for the better in the year 2016—do what Christ has called us to do in His own words and love your neighbor as yourself.