Thursday, April 8, 2010

Following Jesus - The Good Samaritan

"Who is my neighbor?

In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of 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, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins[e] 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.' Luke 10: 29 - 35

The road from Jerusalem to Jericho, in Jesus' day, was a dangerous passage. It was locally known as "The Way of Blood" because of the violence inflicted on travelers from robbers. What had happened to the traveler in Jesus' parable, presumably a Jew, had happened to countless others and Jesus' listeners knew it. It is often in our "dangerous" times, when we feel threatened and our lives, our lifestyles, our faith, our marriages and children may be in peril, that we are most tempted to turn from the path of Jesus. We read this story and frown at those who walked past the wounded traveler, but how many of us push our children behind us and soldier on past the wounded, lonely, hurting people in our world because we "don't want any trouble"?

And really, who does want trouble? Isn't that one of the things that bothers us about minorities and teachings that oppose Christianity in our schools? Our children hear things and come home asking questions that we don't want to answer and we are angered. Trouble. Difficult people move into our neighborhoods, our schools, our churches, and soon things begin to look like difficult people are there. Trouble. Hurting people come to us for help, but they don't have the grace to be quietly, politely hurting. No, they have to yell and cry and maybe even swear and try to escape their pain in ways that we don't approve of. Trouble.

Who wants trouble? Nobody, that's who. But Jesus, and those who follow Jesus, love people more than they hate trouble. Christ-followers are moved into action by the pain of others, and because of this nothing looks like trouble to them. Christ-followers welcome the opportunity to teach their children to be Christ-followers who love and respect people no matter what beliefs they hold. They aren't threatened by other beliefs. They are too caught up in loving people who have other beliefs. Christ-followers see evidence of difficult people and rejoice in the opportunities to show care for someone.

Christ-followers have caught on to an amazing truth - the best way to avoid trouble is to get busy embracing people. Christ-followers protect their children by teaching them to love, first God and then others. You want to help your daughter remain pure until marriage? Don't teach her to focus on herself and what's right for her. Teach her to love others, including the boys in her life, and to honor their purity. Once she loves people, she'll be loath to do anything that will interfere with their relationships with God, especially not for a few moments of pleasure. Teach young men to honor and love others, including the young women they care about. Is it trouble to care for your family, to tuck your babies into bed, to rub your spouses' back? If the answer is no, that is because you love them. It's amazing what love does to our perception of trouble.

One of my dearest memories of my daughter, Grace's childhood, is having tea with a friend at our house. I have a permanent picture of the moment in my mind, because it is to me, the ultimate picture of the heart of God. Gracie was little, maybe three or four. She was a picture of innocence, all pink and blond and sweet, dimpled adorableness. She was sitting across the table from a man who many would consider her exact opposite. Jerry* was a biker. He sold drugs and lived a lifestyle that showed in the darkness under his eyes, the shaking of his hands. He was covered with tattoos, sported the classic biker guy earring, ponytail, bandanna and leather jacket. He was as rough as Gracie was soft, as dark as Gracie was light, as old as Gracie was young. They sat across from each other at the table, and he chatted to her with a gentleness that moved my heart. Gracie chatted back happily. They drank tea from floral china cups, and Gracie giggled as Jerry tipped the cup to his lips, making a point of sticking his pinky upward in a fine British air. It was sweet and lovely.

Was I worried that Gracie may "pick up" something from Jerry, a bad attitude, a stray curse word? Absolutely not. Gracie already had something that would insulate her against the darkness. She loved. To her, Jerry was a person, not a sinner, not a biker, not a pusher. Do we really believe that He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world? (1John 4:4) Do we believe that the fullness of the Holy Spirit is in us and in our children? God was as much God in my four year old as He was in me. God is love, and gives wisdom to anyone who asks (James 1:5), and Christ-followers know that love and wisdom go a long way to take the sting out of trouble.

No one wants trouble. Christ-followers just want some things too much to worry about it.

*names have been changed to protect the precious

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