Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Following Jesus - The Good Samaritan

There is one scene in the first "Lord of the Rings" movie, "Fellowship of the Ring", that always makes me cry. The Hobbits, Sam and Frodo are in the glorious Elven city of Rivendell. A special counsel is going on to decide the fate of the One Ring. The powerful, the wealthy, the wise sit together and discuss what must be done, and it is decided that the ring must be taken to Mordor, the land of the evil One, Sauron. It must be taken deep into fiery Mount Doom, where it was forged, and it must be thrown into the molten lava to be forever destroyed. It is a perilous, almost impossible endeavor. Warriors, leaders of lands, the wise, the great, all begin to debate who will take the ring to Mordor. Who is strong enough? Who can be trusted with the ring, which threatens to enslave any ambitious soul that touches it? Who is big enough for this task?

Frodo, not much more than 3 feet tall, mop headed, young, peace-loving Frodo stands and says, "I will take it." At this point, I am usually weeping. Frodo is so small, no one hears him at first. He says it again, louder. They hear him and quiet. They turn to look at him. He says it again. "I will take the ring to Mordor." Then he pauses, "Although, I do not know the way." Battle worn faces soften. Wise, elder faces light up with a new perspective. Powerful faces bow to a different kind of strength. Understanding flutters into the room and rests on them all. They had been asking the wrong questions. Seeking the wrong answers. The issue wasn't who was strong enough to knock down the front gates of Mordor, but who was unimportant enough to slip through the back door. Not, who would be strong enough to resist the temptation for absolute power promised by the ring, but who was humble enough not to want absolute power in the first place. Not who was big enough, but who was small enough. The wrong questions.

I don't know what questions the 72 disciples of Jesus asked when He was preparing to send them out into the world to minister in His name. From Jesus' instructions, we see that what they needed to know was simple logistics. What to bring, what not to bring, what to do and say under different circumstances, etc. They needed to know where to go, who to go to, and what Jesus wanted said to those they saw.

Then there is this. "On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?

What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"
He answered: " '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, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" " (Luke 10:25 - 29)

You know something I have noticed? Often when Christians read Scriptures that address opposite mindsets, like the humble sinner who prays quiets and the braggart who thanks God he is not like the sinner, or the Pharisees and the lost "undesirables" that Jesus hung out with, or the proud, rich people and the poor widow giving her last penny, we tend to identify ourselves with the poor, weak, humble, lost ones. Could it be that we do this because they are the ones in the incidents that Jesus favors? And who among us doesn't want to be favored by Jesus? And yet...oh there's always an "And yet...", it is possible that at least some of the time, we are in the other boat.

Christians, especially in our wealthy countries of North America, have much more in common with the powerful than the powerless. We're not the poor lost sinners. I am sorry to say that the majority of us are the people that prostitutes and "tax collectors" (drug pushers?) feel judged by and uncomfortable with(and before we blame our obvious purity for this discomfort, remember that they did not feel this way with Jesus, the Holy One). We are the ones who struggle with pride, who prickle when we don't get our own way, who offend easily and like our toys new and shiny. Have you ever heard anyone say, when looking at a sinner, "But for the grace of God go I" and wonder just a bit if the spirit of the thought doesn't match the "Thank God I am not like HIM." attitude of the Pharisee of Luke 18:11? Have you ever said it yourself and wondered the same thing about your own heart? I have.

Yes, I would like to be the poor, simple, broken one that Jesus gathers into His arms as He holds back an army of self-righteous, self-important, proud, affluent Pharisees. But I'm not. I am either going to be a disciple of Jesus, sheltering the broken from the proud, or I am going to be one of the proud, being opposed by God.(James 4:6)

So when I ask myself which questions I am asking, I do not want to assume that I am asking the right ones. I pray for honesty, clarity, truth. Who cares who I am in my own eyes. I need to know who I am in God's eyes. What does Jesus see when He looks at me? When He looks at us? What questions are we asking?

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