The Good American (Samaritan)

A couple was taking a trip to a nearby city to do some shopping when on their way out of town they came across an older gentleman along the side of the road with a duffle bag and his thumb in the air. The couple drove on past, but the wife asked her husband if he wanted to pick the gentleman up. A moment of decision was at hand, should they turn around and pick up this stranger and take a risk or should they just continue on driving as though there had never been anyone there. They turned around, still with some fear and anxiety about the person that they were about to pick up, but they decided to trust in God for their protection. They turned around again, this time in sight of the man and headed back towards him to pick him up. This time the decision was the man’s. Would he trust total strangers enough to get into the vehicle and accept a ride knowing that he would be at their mercy? He knew that he needed a ride as the hill that he had only made it a quarter of the way up had already been about all that his old bones could bear. He had already spent two nights sleeping under a bridge in the cold to stay out of the rain and desperately needed to make it to his friend’s house who had agreed to take him in and get him off of the street. Could he really chance passing up a ride, how much longer could he continue? He decided to trust in God for his protection and to get into the vehicle.

Photo taken by Pedro Robeiro Simoes.  Some rights reserved.
Photo taken by Pedro Robeiro Simoes. Some rights reserved by owner.

It was time to meet. The gentleman, who was 64 years old, opened the door with a smile and graciously thanked them for the ride as he placed his bag into the vehicle. The couple knew immediately that they had made the right choice. They could sense that the Lord was with them and that the Lord was with the man. As they drove down the road they were blessed by each other in learning about each other’s lives and their walk with the Lord. The homeless gentleman would learn that they were pregnant and would be the first person to know the name of their child. The couple would learn about the difficulties in life that the gentleman had faced and the decisions that he made which landed him in jail where he would come to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and that would ultimately leave him homeless for the last eight years of his life. They continued on and would eventually share a meal together and would end up well past their original destination to take this gentleman as far as he would accept a ride from them, but the impact would be lasting. They would reflect upon what Jesus had done for them to guide them down this path, all the while keeping them safe on their journey. All because they decided to trust and to obey.

This story makes me think about the Good Samaritan and about how many people had passed by the man as he lay their half dead and naked on the road, just like the countless number of people that had passed by this homeless man. Here is the parable of the Good Samaritan as told by Jesus.

Luke 10:25-37

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?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by 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 this 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, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii 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.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

The Good Samaritan by Aimé Morot (1880)
The Good Samaritan by Aimé Morot (1880)
“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “and who is my neighbor?” (10:28). It is difficult to love people, it is difficult to accept that we are to love all people not just the ones that are closest to us or that we care about the most or even just the ones that are easiest to love. I cannot even begin to count how many times I have been like the expert of the law who asked Jesus who was considered to be his neighbor. I know that I fail at this so often, but I want to do better. Just today I failed miserably at this and had to repent and ask God to show me how to love someone whom I have no understanding of how to love. I had to ask God to soften my heart for this person and to show me who they really are, to show me their hurts, their desires, to show me what He sees not just what I see. You see I have a bad habit of judging people and trying to justify myself, just as the teacher of the law was trying to do, but Jesus is clear in His teaching. We are to love, even when it is difficult, even when it costs, even when the other person could never repay us because our reward will be waiting for us in heaven. So where is your love?

Father you are so gracious and mighty. Your ways are above my ways oh Lord. Let your Kingdom come down to this earth just as it is in Heaven. Forgive me for all of the times that I have failed you. Forgive me for my hard heart and the hurt that I have caused others. Forgive me for being judgmental and not loving those whom you have told me to love. Father protect me from the schemes of the enemy who is out to destroy me and to make me ineffective with those around me. Protect those around me and allow them to feel safe in my presence so that I can show them who you really are and what you are able to do. Lord you have restored my life, you are still restoring my life and I want to pass that on to others. I want to show them what it looks like to be made whole by the maker of the Heavens and the Earth, by the creator of man and woman, who desires to see all of us made whole. All we have to do is accept you God, to trust you, and to obey you. Keep me from growing weary in doing your work Lord. Help me to be an effective member of your body. I thank you for your love and kindness and mercy. I thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ, and it is in his name I pray. Amen.

Where_is_the_love

Do You Really Care About Others?

I work in a local coffee shop and I have the opportunity to interact with numerous people every day. Some people I barely know while others are “regulars” that I get to interact with often and have really enjoyed getting to know. Today I had the opportunity to meet the husband of one of our customers, or at least find out who he was. As it turned out I knew both of them and care about both of them but I didn’t know they were married to each other. Too my defense this was the first time I saw them together but I still feel like I should have known that they were married to one another. It got me to thinking about whether or not I had done a good job of caring about them. In this instance I feel confident in my level of knowledge about their lives based upon the amount of time I have known them, but what about other people I interact with? Do I truly value the people in my life?

Certainly we have all had superficial conversations with people before, especially in passing, but is that a high enough standard? Shouldn’t we care for people better while we have the opportunity? God has been convicting me about this lately so as a result I have started slowing down more and trying to focus more upon the people in my life, but I know I could still improve as I have fallen way short of the standard in many cases. What exactly is the standard though? We are told that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mk. 12:30-31) so I would say that is a great place to start. Another passage says that we should love one anther just as God loves us and that people will know that we are God’s disciples if we love one another (Jn. 13:34-35). 1 Jn. 4:7-8 states that we are to love one another because love is from God and that those who were born of God love while those who do not love do not know God.

Love is a topic that gets much attention in the Bible and it should in our personal lives as well. 1 Corinthians 13 is an entire chapter dubbed as the “love chapter” and is the home of the often quoted “love never fails” (v. 8), “love is patient, love is kind…” (v. 4), and “now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (13). Another major section in the Bible focused on love and maybe a little less known is found in Galatians 5 where we are taught how to live a life led by the Spirit.

Galatians 5:13-25
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

The Granite CrossLove is a fruit of the Spirit so if you do not have love then you do not have the Spirit within you, for the desires of the flesh are contrary to those of the Spirit. I can definitely tell when I am not being motivated by the Spirit, but have allowed myself to succumb to the desires of the flesh. It is so easy to be selfish and so hard to be self-less. It is so easy to act like other people don’t matter and so difficult to love well. It is so easy to forget that we are heirs to the King, that our lives have been bought and that our sins have been paid for. As a result we are to live life differently than the rest of the world; however, often times my life does not look different than that of the person next to me.

Brothers and sisters we are not called to live a life led by the flesh and I don’t want to either. What good is it to be a child of God if we do not take seriously the authority that we have over Satan and his demons? What good is it to be a child of God if we don’t act any differently than the person who does not know God. I would argue that if we are living in this way that we need to re-evaluate our lives and how close we are to God and possibly whether or not we have actually given our lives to Christ. “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Gal. 5:13).

God please forgive me for not living my life according to the Spirit. Teach me to be more receptive to the Spirit living within me so that I can live out my life appropriately. I do not want to look and act like those who are children of Satan; I want to be known by all people as a child of God. I know that I need to love people better and I know that it is through the relationships that you have placed in my life that I have been granted the greatest influence. It is there that I am best able to serve others and to show your love, the only true love. I want to know you more Father, reveal yourself to me even further as I step out and give more of myself to others, but I don’t want to only give them a part of me. I need to be filled to overflowing so that I can give them you. Fill me with your Spirit and renew your Spirit within me each day. I love you Father, and with your help I can love others better. Teach me your ways oh Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Love your Neighbor as Yourself

“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk. 12:31). . . such a simple command and yet so difficult to actually live out.  From birth we learn how to get what we want; if we want to eat then we cry, if we want to be held then we cry, if we want to be changed then we cry, if our bellies hurt then we cry.  We learn immediately how to get what we want typically through an undesired result.  When we grow up you would expect for these things to change, but often times they don’t .  We have a tendency to go through life worried about our own wants, desires, and needs and we forget about those around us who also have wants, desires, and needs.  We forget and we neglect by focusing on ourselves.

I am reminded of the story of the woman at the well (Jn. 4:1-42) whom Jesus took the time to minister to and to love.  Cultural barriers aside Jesus was talking with someone that was in need.  She had a need that she had been searching to fill but had never succeeded.  When she went to the well to fetch water that day she received so much more than she could have ever imagined.  She received life instead of death all because Jesus took the time to listen, not only to what she was saying but also to what the Father was saying.  He listened and He acted accordingly in love, as a result she received the living water that she had been searching for.  As followers of Jesus Christ we have the same abilities if we allow ourselves to press into them.  Learning to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit takes time, but with practice it becomes easier.

Showing love can often be lived out through a giving of our time and through actively listening to those we are in conversation with.  When was the last time that you really felt loved and cared for?  Was it when someone was listening to how your day went?  Was it during a conversation with a friend who was actually willing to listen and put aside their own desires to be heard at the moment so that they could hear you?  Our busy lives often times leave us feeling rushed and distracted.  They can keep us from really connecting with others.  We often ask how people are doing in passing all the while knowing that we will probably just get a “I’m doing fine” and be able to continue on our way without much of a burden, but what happens when we notice something that tells us they are not doing fine?  Do we stop and engage in conversation and try to listen or do we just pass on by?

Jesus didn’t just pass by the woman at the well, He took the time to listen to her and care for her.  There is a lot of talk about love right now with Valentine’s day right around the corner, but we should be talking about love all the time.  We are told that the greatest commandment is to love God with the entirety of our being and that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves.  I know I need to spend more time loving my neighbors and I definitely need to have a heart of worship towards the Father in all that I do.  Love is more than a feeling, it is action with intent.  What is your intent today?  Could you bring someone to Christ by loving them?  Do you need to start by reconnecting with our Father?  Where ever you are today in your walk with the Lord it is your choice to love and be obedient or to ignore and possibly miss being someone’s last chance at finding their way home.  Life is short, how will you be remembered for living it?

Father we praise you for loving us even when we are unlovable, when we hurt those around us, and when we don’t take the time to see your children as you see them.  Holy Spirit guide us in our conversations and in our daily routines.  We ask you to give us the courage to break routines that need to be broken and to open our eyes to those around us.  Lord, without you we are nothing.  Fill us with your love and compassion for you and for others.  Show us what you see in us and help us to see what you see in others.  Let us be your hands and feet.  Thank you Father for the sacrifice of your Son so that we may have life.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.