Thursday, April 1, 2010

Following Jesus - The Good Samaritan

Questions. We ask them in order to find out things, to understand more, to get answers. The questions that we ask, though, sometimes reveal more information about us than they do for us.

The expert in the law asks, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" (vs 25) The Scripture says that he asked this to test Jesus, and from this we know a bit about his motives. Aside from that, though, his question reveals much about his heart and attitude towards God. For one thing, he still believes that he is up to the task of earning eternal life. "What must I do...?" If I just know what to do, I can do it. God is holy and just and His demands are high, but if I just knew what to do, I know I can keep up, I can hit the mark, I can be good enough. So, what do I have to do?

Imagine a husband on his wedding night, sitting by his new bride, looking deeply into her eyes and asking, "What do I have to do to keep you with me?" Doesn't that just sound...wrong? If she is emotionally healthy and honest, she looks at him and frowns, "Keep me with you? Really? You mean, like paying the mortgage to keep from losing the house, paying the bills to keep the electricity and phone on or feeding the cat to keep him from taking off?" There are two reasons for treating someone in a loving manner. We can treat someone with love because we actually love them, and want them to be happy and secure. We want to please them, and take joy in their happiness and comfort. We value and honor them, and will sacrifice our own comfort and pleasure in order to bring them happiness. Or, we can treat them in a loving way for selfish reasons, because they make us feel good and bring us pleasure and we want to keep them around to continue pleasing us. Essentially, we treat them well to keep them with us.

The husband who asks, "What do I have to do to keep you with me?" is asking a much different question than the one who asks, "What do I need to do to bring you joy, to make you happy, to help you to feel secure?" Likewise, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" is a much different question than, "What must I do to please my Father God, to bring Him pleasure, to make Him happy?" And not "happy with me?". Just, happy.

The expert's question shows arrogance on many levels, but on two in particular. Firstly, he assumes that whatever needs to be done to inherit eternal life, he is able to do it. And secondly, he is only looking out for himself, concerned with his salvation. This is a risky endeavor when you are asking about the Eternal One, The Lord God Almighty. You'd think a person would want to offer a, "Wow, You're pretty amazing, God!" before getting into, "So, what can You do for me? How am I going to benefit from this interaction, this relationship?" Coming before God with an agenda of selfishness and self-centredness is a futile endeavor. We cannot fool Him. He knows the intents and motives of our hearts. Our relationships with Him are love relationships, and He wants our love. It is easy to say we love God. Do we really think that He is fooled so easily?

One way we can know if we truly love someone or are in the relationship because of what they can do for us is to examine our reactions when they cannot or will not do for us what we want them to. If you want her to make you happy, and she is too tired or busy or cranky to make you happy, does that anger or irritate you? Or are you concerned for her, and do you seek to ease her burden because you don't want her to feel overwhelmed? If we parent so our children can, by their behavior, show us off as good parents, we will feel anger, irritation, sometimes even loss of interest in the child when they behave badly or don't excel in certain areas, failing in their purpose of exalting us. And when we follow God in order to bring blessings into our own lives, we will feel anger when God does not give as we see fit. We may even reject Him. We will certainly complain about Him, and grumble to Him.

Our words reveal our motives. The expert in the law made clear his motives. But Jesus is wise. And graceful. For this, we can all be grateful.

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