Wednesday, April 7, 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 10:30 - 35

Jesus often used stories and parables to illustrate important concepts. The wonderful thing about using parables is that they enable the listeners to come to the appropriate conclusion themselves. Jesus doesn't have to sum it up for them because the story has made it clear. He is, essentially, not telling them what is true, but allowing them to see the truth themselves, to proclaim to themselves and others, "Ah, this is true!" Jesus' method of teaching displays great wisdom, humility and patience. Jesus did not just know the truth. In John 14:6, He says that He is the way, the truth and the life. He is truth. And yet, rather than always proclaiming the truth to His listeners, He at times patiently leads them to discover it themselves. He knows that when we see something ourselves, we are more likely to understand it on a deeper level. The lesson Jesus is teaching here needs to be received and kept on a deep level. It is foundational in the Christian faith. He knows that if His disciples and followers don't get this message, they will not get Him. And if they don't get Him, they will be lost.

God often uses life situations to illustrate His truths for us. When we are invited into the personal lives of others, we need to understand the great honor and trust bestowed on us, not just by the one welcoming us, but also by God. It is too easy to sit someone down and say, "This is what you must do." A wise pastor once said that we do not break the laws of God, we illustrate them. When we do something that we know we shouldn't do, the consequences of our actions begin to flow from our lives and remind us just why it was wrong in the first place, if we are honest with ourselves and choose not to blame others for the messes we are in.

When that river of consequence is flowing, it is not (I repeat, not) the time for a follower of Jesus to come in and say their own maddeningly self-righteous version of "I told you so." I write this adamantly. If you cannot resist the temptation to crow about your superior wisdom and knowledge to one who is broken and sinking in pain from their mistakes, you need to remove yourself from ministry and deal with your own sins of pride and arrogance. God opposes the proud (James 4:6), and I believe that God is especially fierce when He sees the pride of the church member crushing the spirit of an already broken and wounded seeker.

Jesus could have lectured, He could have preached, He could have sermonized. Instead, He shared a story, asked a question and then left the issue with God. God forbid that people should make choices in their lives, should repent and change their ways, to please us, to fit our timing. We are servants of God, and we work on His schedule. Jesus trusted His Father, and knew where His work ended and the Father's began. There is a wonderful peace about Jesus' teachings. Despite the fact that He had but three years to prepare His followers for His death and resurrection and the birth of the church, He didn't seem hurried or frantic. He didn't push or cajole. He knew that willing hearts would connect with the truth told simply and lovingly. Proud, resistant hearts would reject the most direct application. The result was between God and the listening soul.

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