Tuesday, July 1, 2014

what does it mean to love your neighbor?

You don't have to look far to find someone who is hurting. 

That means it should be super easy to obey the second most important thing that ever came out of the Son of God's mouth, and the second most important thing in all of life:
loving your neighbor as you love yourself. 

More often than I'd like to admit, I find myself thinking the words, 
"It's not my fault."

"It's not my fault you married a jerk."
"It's not my fault you have no work ethic."
"It's not my fault you've been making terrible decisions for years."

Jesus has something to say about that sort of thinking. 

I've been reading the story of the Good Samaritan quite a bit here lately, really trying to get a grasp of the sort of Love Jesus is talking about.
It's not a fluffy, feel-good sort of love. 
It's too authentic for that. 

The whole story of the Good Samaritan was told because a selfish lawyer was trying to justify the lack of love he had for his neighbors. This selfish lawyer had the sort of "it's not my fault" thinking towards his neighbors' problems. 
He was talking to Jesus about how to inherit eternal life, and after discussing the big commandment, "love your neighbor as you love yourself," the selfish lawyer says to Jesus, 
"And who is my neighbor?" 

Jesus answered him with the story of the Good Samaritan. 

A man got robbed, stripped, beat up, and left half-dead on the side of the road. 

A priest walked by, saw the man laying there in his misery, and stayed on the other side of the road. 
It's so much easier to stay on the other side of the road. 
It certainly wasn't the priest's fault that the man was in this condition. 
It wasn't the priest's problem. 

Next, a Levite, sort of like a priest's assistant, passed by.
He also went with the easier, safer, cheaper, more convenient option and stayed on the other side of the road. 
It certainly wasn't the Levite's fault that the man was in this condition. 
It wasn't the Levite's problem. 

The man continued to lay in his own blood, naked, hurting, and alone. 

Then came a Samaritan.
He saw the wounded man and did what was difficult, costly, inconvenient, unpopular, and time consuming; 
he went to him. 
He got down with him right in the middle of the mess and made the wounded man's problems his own. 
He put him on his own donkey, changed the schedule of his entire day and took him to a nearby inn, paid the innkeeper two day's worth of wages to look after the man, and gave his word he would pay more if needed. 

It certainly wasn't the Samaritan's fault that the man was in this condition.
It wasn't the Samaritan's problem, 
but he chose to make it his problem. 

Love does that. 

Jesus said that love goes to where people are in their messes, their pain, their shame, and love helps them out of that place. 

He told the selfish lawyer that if he wanted to love his neighbor  and obey the second most important commandment in all of life, 
he needed to love the people in his life like this Samaritan loved this wounded stranger. 

We have so much learning to do. 
Jesus is willing to teach us and that's Good News. 

Jesus said that loving your neighbor means seeing people's needs and giving whatever you can to meet those needs. 

How about we go find someone who is in need and give them whatever we can?

And then how about we do that for the rest of our lives. 

Jesus answered, "A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he travelled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, 'Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.' Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbour to him who fell among the robbers?"

He said, "He who showed mercy on him."

Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
— Luke 10:30–37