The way to life is narrow in terms of salvation but is broad in terms of the love we are to give in His name.
It’s so good to be with all of you. We’ve had a very difficult period. We’re still in it. We’re all walking through this together. It’s been months now where we’ve had to deal with a pandemic. That has been such an impactful experience for so many of us. Then these last days, these last weeks have just been brutal. It’s torn the fabric of who we are as a people just into pieces and shredded it. We’re such a convulsion of pain. Since the death of George Floyd, since his awful killing, it’s just set up a whole bunch of different things into motion, feelings that are raw and real. We’ve all walked through this together. I just want to say that we stand with all of our African American brothers and sisters in Christ.
We see ourselves as one body. So, when one part of the body feels pain, we all feel it. At the same time, we remember that we are one in Christ. The message of our church has always been our unity in Christ. We’ve always been about the message of Jesus above all else. We’ve never been political. We’re not going to start now, but we do care. We care deeply. We want to reinforce the beauty of what Jesus brings. We are a house of many people. We are a house of many different types of people. We are called to love one another. We seek to love one another and we seek to love the world outside of our walls as well as outside of our community. That’s what we want to be. We want to be life-givers and peacemakers for Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
We ask that the Lord would help us to be that to others and to be part of the peacemaking process. We want to be known less for what we’re against. I know there are real things to be against. We want to be known more for what we are for, for peace, mercy, and justice. But most of all, the message of Jesus that we believe changes people far more profoundly than any institution or social movement could ever dream of doing. The message of Jesus, the reality of him at work in our lives, the reality of his spirit, the reality of his love changes people from the inside out. It really binds us together in true unity. That’s what we want to pursue.
I know also that many of us are troubled. We’re seeing many things that are disturbing. There’s a lot of violence and senseless things that are being done, which also is painful. I’m reminded of something that a wonderful, amazing woman who was a peacemaker in our own right, Corrie ten Boom shared. She said, “If you look at the world, you’ll be disturbed.” She said, “If you look at yourself, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Jesus, you’ll be at rest.” That’s where we want to cast our glance, not as an escapist, but as a true refuge, a true unifying thing. The way of Jesus is our church’s way. It is what we’re committed to above all other things. That’s where I want to land. I hope that we can make that journey together.
Lord, even now, I ask that you help us to love well, to be present, to listen well, to share our pain together well. Most of all, to keep our eyes on you because you are the one that we want to lift up. You’re the answer the world is looking for. We believe that. We’re committed to it. We’re going to continue to proclaim your gospel, your good news far and wide, wherever we can and whatever way we can. We believe you are the answer. We will live that out as best as we can by your grace. Help us to do that in Jesus’s name.
In a minute, we’re going to be sharing a song, and then it’s going to come back to my message. The message is on the cusp of marriage. That’s where I’m going to sit for the next few weeks. That has everything to do with how to love your neighbor. So, just keep that in mind. We’ll sing about his love and then we’ll come back. We’ll sit with a teaching of Jesus that is so good and so relevant for where we all are right now.
It started with a question. Yes, it was a question. We read about it in Luke 10 verse 25. It says, “Behold, a lawyer stood up, scribe, to put Jesus to test, to put him to test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?'” A lawyer again is sometimes called a scribe, an expert, they were in the Old Testament, the law of the scriptures, scholars who had devoted themselves to its application for daily life. So, if we can imagine the scene or mind’s eye, here is this teaching that Jesus has been giving. All of a sudden, he’s interrupted, perhaps not disrespectfully, but nonetheless, it was a question that was designed to test Jesus, to put him to the test. The question itself was not actually such an uncommon one for the day.
He essentially was asking, “Teacher, what do you believe is the key to life? What do you believe is the essence and the purpose of our existence?” It’s actually a deep probing question, something that many of us sit with at different times in our lives as well. Certainly, anyone who looks at the teachings of Jesus will be also looking at it through the lens of, “What does it mean to have eternal life?” Eternal life as the scribe was thinking of it was not just life in terms of duration. In other words, beyond this timeframe, but it had to do with also life in the fullest sense of meaning, life both here and now, life in his essence of purpose. In other words, he asked the question, “How do I secure life in its fullest?” He waited for the answer of Jesus.
The crowds were watching. The people were watching. They had their eyes fixed. The interruption was not just from any man. It was from a scribe, an expert in the field. He asked a probing question, a question that many of them would have been interested in hearing. Where did he stand? Then perhaps when the question was asked, how was it asked? That was another thing to think about. What was the tone of the scribe? Was it an arrogant tone? Was it sincere? Was he himself seated? Did he stand and make a proclamation? We really don’t know.
What we do know though is that he put Jesus to the test. Whether it was to catch and expose him or to see if Jesus was up to the task, we don’t really know. It was a question that we may assume was asked with confidence, the confidence of a self-assured man. Well, that’s what the scribe would have been. He was an expert. He was. Perhaps, we would think it is the case, he was much older than Jesus. So, imagine the scene. An expert scribe steps forward or stands up or interrupts the teaching, perhaps respectfully, perhaps not. We don’t know, but what we do know is he asked Jesus.
He’s coming to him not in any way from the perspective of someone who wants to necessarily learn as somebody who’s an understudy, but from the place of confidence. He sends the question in Jesus’s direction, but Jesus surprised him. He surprised him. I think he surprised the gathered audience as well by answering the question with a question, as Jesus had a tendency to do when people were trying to pin him down or put him into a corner or get the best of him rhetorically. Jesus responded to the question with the question of his own. It was a parody of sorts, delivered with what we may assume was a nonreactive assured gentleness.
Perhaps Jesus paused. Perhaps as everybody watched the potential confrontation, they were taken aback by the gentleness of the bearing of Jesus, the seemingly non-pulsed response to what could have been something that he might have reacted to if he were like other teachers, but he didn’t seem to do that at all. He asked a question himself. He asked this question, look at verse 26. He that is Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? What is written in the law? I ask you this, and how do you read it? What is your perspective? Can you answer that first? What is your take? How do you understand it?” Perhaps a smile.
Maybe Jesus said, “My friend, you’re asking a question that you know the answer to. You’re asking me a question you know the answer to. You’re the expert. You’re the expert in the law, right? You know that answer. Why are you asking me?” The scribe, who clearly was in his own way a trap setter, if I could put it this way, could not resist the modest. I don’t know if I want to call it a trap, but certainly, the way in which Jesus maneuvers the situation tempted the scribe in such a way that he felt compelled to respond. It was an appeal to his pride. He gave his answer with an assured conviction that revealed, I think, his confidence and his training. It was a textbook answer of someone learned and an expert.
There’s no question about it. Look at verse 27. He answered, “Oh, this is a simple answer. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The answer flowed without hesitation, like a boat cutting through the water. The answer came, glided, with verbal ease, combining the great Shema, the great command of Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy six verses four and five, which was like the Lord’s Prayer, the Jewish people, if you think of it that way.
The Shema is the Hebrew word for heat, listen. “Hear, oh, Israel,” is where it begins. Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. He combined with the command of Leviticus 19:18 to love your neighbor as yourself. So, you have this combination. Really, if you think about it, the blending of those two. The Deuteronomy six passage, the Shema with the command of Leviticus 19, which had to do with loving your neighbor as yourself, really is actually a summary of the Ten Commandments. I mean, it is the essence of the Ten. If you break them down, it’s about loving God and it’s about loving people, loving your neighbor.
The answer was perfect. It had to do with focusing on your relationship with God as the priority of your life. Then the second-highest priority is focusing on your relationship with others. There you have the essence of life, according to the Scriptures. I would like to just, if I could, shift gears a bit and just sit here for a moment. I would have us reflect on how this relates to our theme right now, engage faith in these transition times and these shifting seasons of ours right now where everything’s in flux. What does an engaged faith look like? How would the answer of the scribe inform that? Because the answer was embedded in a biblical foundation. There’s no question.
One of the things that’s important for us to remember is that at a time like this when we’re faced with many questions in the days ahead, I think it’s even more important to secure our foundation. I’m trying to remind myself of this as well, to secure our foundation. That is to settle our hearts, because no matter how things unfold, if we will settle our hearts on the two great commands, really the two greatest things, to love God and to love people, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind. Think about that. If we can really truly do that in these transition times if we can love God, and let’s just sit with that for a moment, what does it mean to love God?
It means to be near to him, to give him our deepest affection, to give him our loyalty and the center of who we are, the most meaningful part of who we are, to yield it to him in relational commitment and in affection and devotion, right? To love him more dearly, to see him more clearly. It’s so easy, I think, at times like these to get distorted vision and to start drifting, you know what I’m talking about. We can find ourselves drifting into an anxious place or a distracting place. I just think of the downside to having so much time online. We’re doing it right now. We’re going to stay with this for a while.
We may never change some of the things we’re doing now because there’s such a value. One of the downsides to having everybody so depersonalized in terms of presence, more digital and virtual in our experiences, and social in terms of the things that we’re dealing with that is just a wide-open frontier of the internet. In so many of the social channels, we can easily wander into unhealthy places. Some of us can wander into sin and into addictive patterns. That just will suck the life right out of us and fill us with guilt or shame and a false high.
The danger in being out here so much is that our affections can drift. By the way, I just need to say this and I just feel the need to do it. If some of us have found ourselves drifting into an unhealthy place or a place that honestly, we feel like we’ve sinned. Therefore, it’s taken a little bit of our momentum away during this season. Repent. I mean, express your sorrow to God, ask him for forgiveness, pray for his love. It won’t be withheld from you. It won’t, none of us. The Lord always responds to a humble heart. I might add one more part to that, bring other people, bring someone you trust, bring someone you’re connected to in your small group, your Zoom group, your prayer group, your ministry group.
If you’re not connected to anyone, you can also reach out to a pastor if you don’t have anyone else to do that to on our team. We will pray with you. We have prayer teams actually that will lift you up. I mean, I don’t want any of us bound up. I just realized how easy it is to get stuck in places right now and to lose our love. The Lord loves us so much and he wants us to love him back. Again, love the Lord your God with all your heart. The more in love we are with him, the healthier we will be. We will. It will be better, the freer we will be. I know it doesn’t seem like that. The illusion of what we’re presented with, the continual illusion of curated experiences that aren’t real, actually are destructive for the soul. So, I want to encourage all of us to find ways to strengthen our love.
Think about what that even says, the great Shema, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. What does it mean to love him with our heart? I mean, to love him with a tenderness, a sincerity, a passion, and a genuine sensitivity. To love the Lord with our soul, to love him with our soul, that is with our mind, our thoughtfulness too. When I hear that, to love the Lord with all our mind, I think about the idea of engaging the Lord at more than a surface level, but rather be a people who want to be a true follower of Jesus and dig deep. Digging deep is going to look different for different people. But for whoever you are and for wherever we are, make a decision to dig deep. That’s a foundational principle.
Don’t just settle in on a surface-level experience with Jesus. Contend, use this time to contend for the deeper places and the deeper spaces with God. Think deep thoughts. Think long thoughts as I like to say. Create space and reflect well on our life, if we feel like we’re actually honoring our priorities. Do we really want to be stuck where we’re stuck? Maybe the Lord is saying to us, “Part of loving me is going to look like be more freed up to love people better.” We’ll talk about that in a moment, but also love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, and your might, our strength. That implies effort, doesn’t it? It implies effort. We have to work at this.
Ours is a working faith. It’s not a passive faith. It has times of intentional passivity and Sabbath rest. There’s time for that. But by and large, our faith needs to be put into place like anything else. It’s like the muscles in our body. We have to put faith into action for it to grow. It’s just designed that way. A lot of what Jesus is going to get at, he’s going to reveal to us. In these transition times, let’s also do the second part of that. Remember, love God and love people as part of the answer the scribe gave. Jesus is going to affirm it, but what does it mean to love people? I think it means to care and to be aware. I’ll say that again. Loving people means to care and to be aware, to not be hard, but to be soft of heart. I get conflicted with this, to be slow to anger and quick to forgive.
The Christian way is about giving and forgiving. It’s not about grudge-holding negativity and being a continual critic. We weren’t called to a place of judgment or a place where we’re always trying to find faults in the other and use that as an excuse for ourselves. Rather, the Lord always calls us to a place of ownership. Part of that ownership in our own hearts will always have to do with how our love for Christ is extended out to other people and particularly the people who are closest to us. I mean, our neighbors must always begin with those we are in the closest relationship with. That is why we have to really keep our hearts off before the Lord because our normal tendency will be to take for granted the people that are closest to us. We just can’t do that.
Part of being a countercultural follower of the Lord is that we choose not to live the selfish life, but the Christ-like life of a higher degree of selflessness for the well-being of those we love. That’s important to remember that. That’s the light of our path in a way that we are called to be people who go the extra mile. I’m going to follow it up with one next week as well. So much of the teaching of Jesus has to do with going the extra mile and exercising exceptional kindness.
I would hope that many of us will use the time that we have as we’re finding our way into these coming months, that we will use this time to develop people skills. We may not be able to do it in the same way or we may over time be able to, but it’ll be different obviously. There are so many real things we can do that have to do with developing our relational skills and our people skills and listening. I just really think that God wants us to break out in love.
I’ll go back to my phrase, the breakdown that leads to the breakthrough that leads to the breakout. The breakout in love is something God wants us to do. Let’s go back to the account, the showdown if you will in Luke 10. Let’s reset to what happened. The scribe interrupts Jesus. He says, “Teacher, what is your belief? What is your position? How would you describe the essence of life? How do you understand eternal life and what it really is? How would you describe it?” Jesus says, “Well, I have a question for you. You’re a scribe. Why don’t you answer that question? What is your understanding of it?”
So, the scribe answers it, “To love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. I mean, this is the essence of life.” He waited for the response of Jesus. Look at it with me, verse 28. Jesus said to the scribe, the lawyer, “Friend, you have answered beautifully, correctly, with precision.” All the people watched. Do this. Just do this, and you will live. Do the thing you just said. Yes. If you do that, you’ll live. That’s life. That’s true life as defined by God that has meaning both now and forever. A pause. Perhaps as he looked around, he felt embarrassed. Perhaps he felt convicted. Perhaps he had generally wanted to know. Perhaps it was a combination of all of those feelings coming together at the moment.
He says to everybody looking at him, he says, the conviction of the eyes of Jesus that pierced into his heart, calling him to a place that he knew he had probably never ever been totally at peace in. I mean, wow. That’s such a simple answer, right? If you think about it, it’s almost like he says, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on, hold on. I know that, but where do we draw the line? Where do we draw lines? Look, I understand the loving God and loving neighbors as myself, but who is my neighbor? How do we define neighbor? How would you define neighbor?” Look what we’re told, the reason he asked it. This is intense.
Look at verse 29, but he, looked at the phrase, desiring to justify himself said to Jesus, “Well, who is my neighbor?” Something about the way that Jesus answered the question drove into his heart. Something about the way that Jesus positioned the simple type of response, really hit him in a way that clearly. It bothered his conscience enough to where he felt like he had not done this or that. He at least knew that there were some people that were outside the circle of his definition of a neighbor. Something about the way that Jesus interacted with him caused him to be shaken. Maybe we might have to give him a little bit of potential credit. Maybe it was part of that conviction in his own heart, there may have been a sincerity there that had actually moved him towards Jesus.
Now, that’s giving him the benefit of the doubt. One thing that’s clear, he wanted to justify himself. He wanted to make it clear in his own mind that he was a person who had done this. He asked the question, “Well, who is my neighbor?” Who is my neighbor? It’s a fair question, because at the time, actually, it’s more relevant than it seems. So, the question is really, “What is my obligation of love? Who am I actually to love and in what ways?” What does God expect of me when it comes to loving people relationally? Is there a limit? How do we know the limit? When do we know enough is enough? When can we be at peace with people outside the circle of our love? It’s a great question to wrestle with. At the time, there were many differing views.
Some thought the question of, “Who is my neighbor?”, that a neighbor was only really a fellow Jew. That the extent of your neighborly love only had to go towards the fellow Jew. Other people thought, “Well, no. Yes, it’s to our own people. That’s obvious.” But some people said, “But not to the people who are publicans and sinners that are notorious people who are immoral or who practice a life, even though they may be Jewish, they do things that would exclude them from my responsibility to love them.” So, there were a lot of people who said, “No, that’s where we draw the line.” Others said, “No.” Someone asked, “Well, what about Gentiles? I mean, are they to be loved like a neighbor?”
I would think that certainly most people would have said, “You should never love a Roman as your neighbor.” These people despise the Romans. So, Gentiles, for many, were outside the circle of one’s responsibility of love. Others would say, “Well, then what about a Samaritan who was half Jewish and yet had a hybrid odd way of following the Lord?” There were tensions between Jews and Samaritans. Samaritans were partially Jewish. Again, the question, where do you draw your line about loving? It was a clever question. You can debate this, but I lean to the idea that it was actually an honest one. I know he wanted to justify himself because clearly, but the brilliant man was on the defensive.
Jesus had him on his heels because his words hit the mark. He felt like I have felt. Sometimes reading the Word, sometimes hearing the word of the Lord, I know he felt and I felt that this as well the conviction of the Lord fell upon him. Jesus’s words were so concise, so tightly wound that they hit with precision in the exact spot in his heart, where he probably had already been wrestling with God. What would the teacher from Nazareth say to the question, “Well, who is my neighbor?” Well, now, everybody turns back to Jesus to try to see, “Okay, how’s he going to respond now?” This is happening. Everyone fixes their gaze on the teacher from Galilee. He waited for the answer. What would it be? But what they got instead was a story.
I just love it. The answer of Jesus was a story. How good is that? So, Jesus replied in verse 30. A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He fell among robbers. As the version says, “He fell among thieves, who stripped him and beat him and departed. They left him half dead.” So, that’s the picture of the man on the side of a road, who’s been jumped and beaten to a pulp. He’s half dead. He’s been stripped. He’s been robbed, mercilessly left maybe in the sun, just dying. We’re told, it was on the road to Jericho. Jericho, still to this day, some of us may know this, but not everyone necessarily would. But do you realize that Jericho to this day is the lowest city elevation-wise on the entire Earth? Check it out.
It’s located in the Jordan Valley about six miles from the Dead Sea, about 17 miles from Jerusalem. You can actually visit it today. In fact, on our last trip to Israel, that’s exactly what many of us did. We did it as a church. We had a church trip to Israel. The world was different at that time. I now look back on that as a really precious time. I look forward to when we’ll be able to do things like that again. But the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was dangerous. At the time of Jesus, it was known as the Bloody Way, the Bloody Pass. People were jumped, robbed, beaten, and sometimes killed. One traveled with caution and usually, you would try to do it with a group. You would do your commute together. Certainly, you would do it in the daytime, if at all possible. To go at night was to put your life in peril.
So, in the first century, if you read some of the historians, Josephus describes the road even at that time as desolate and rocky. That would have been the feel of it. In the fourth century, Jerome said it was just filled with Bedouin robbers. The road wound through difficult rocky terrain. It was filled with twists and turns. Even to this day, you can get the feel of it. You can imagine the story of Jesus, because in some ways, even now, almost 2,000 years have moved, it has some things that aren’t changed that much. You can get the texture of what Jesus was talking about. You can almost see it, because of how it is even today. So, it had twists, turns, crevices, and bends.
If one traveled it, everybody knew. The audience of Jesus, they all knew. If you traveled alone, man, you better move fast, swiftly, and with caution and open eyes. You do not start daydreaming on the road to Jericho. That’s not the time or place, not the time. You better stay focused. You better stay aware. You better keep your head on a swivel, because at any moment around any corner, if you’re alone, you can be in real trouble. The man on the road had that exactly happened to him. Jesus sets the scene for our story. I’ll go back to verse 30 there. He says, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him. And then they just departed. They left him half dead, breathing, bloody.”
Try to imagine it, just about to die really. By a chance, a priest was going down that road. He saw him, but he did want to take chances. So, he passed by on the other side. Likewise, a Levite, when he came to the place, he also saw him, but he passed by on the other side,” Jesus says. He’s telling this story, priests serve God on behalf of the people in the temple. The Levite’s function is essentially temple attendance. It was not uncommon for them to live in Jericho but work in Jerusalem. Both would have been recognized as religious.
In all fairness, they may have been in a hurry, behind schedule for their sacred duty. It may have been something that they reason with such as, “I have responsibilities that are a higher priority. I don’t have time to do this maybe,” or perhaps what is even more likely is they immediately recognized. They saw the birds flying around in the air, that this guy’s probably beyond help anyway or that it could be a trap. In all fairness, that did happen. Sometimes people would feign being a victim. Then the others, when you went to help, would come and seize upon you. So, it had happened before. I can’t take the chance, got to keep moving. Sorry about that. I hope God takes care of you my friend, but I’m on my way. I can’t, poor soul. I can’t probably be of help anyway. I have to go.
So, whether it was apathy, fear, or the force of a need to keep a perceived higher commitment, we can’t say, but the bottom line is the way Jesus tells the story. Both the priest and Levi chose not to engage. But we’re told a Samaritan, Jesus says. They’re all listening. The scribe’s listening, because he was the one who Jesus was talking to most directly. Jesus said, “But a Samaritan…” You could have heard the crowd go, “A Samaritan? He said, a Samaritan.” I tell you, “Yes, yes.” I can see Jesus say, “Yes, a Samaritan. As he journeyed, he came to where he was. This man was beaten on the side of the road, dying on the side of the road. When he saw him, he had compassion.”
Remember the tension that existed between the Jews and the Samaritans. They were related, but they were different. Samaritans are partially Jewish with a different conception of how to serve God, the God of Israel. It was real prejudice. They went both ways. Samaritans were regarded by most in Jesus’s day as outsiders. Keep that in mind. So, when Jesus says, “But a Samaritan, as he journeyed came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.” “He threw caution aside, and he went to him,” Jesus said. He bound him up, bound up his wounds. Oh, my friend. Are you all right? He poured on him oil… I’ll take care of you for a moment. … and wine and tried to help him, comfort him. He touched him, bandaged him.
It says that “He then set him on his own animal. And then he walked.” Well, the injured man, the dying man rode on the donkey. He brought him to an inn, a safe place. He wanted to take care of him, and he helped him during that day. It’s beautiful. And then Jesus says, “The next day, he took out some money, two denarii and he gave them to the innkeeper. He said, ‘Look, you know me and I know you. I come here a lot. Take care of this man. Whatever more you spend, if it is more than I’ve given you, you know I’ll repay you on the way back. Just put it on my account, you know I’m good for it.” And then Jesus stopped. I think he turned to the scribe. Maybe he looked at the people, but his eyes fixed on the lawyer.
He said, “So, let me ask you this question, because you asked me, ‘Who is the neighbor? Who was my neighbor?’ So, let me ask you this question. I’ll ask it. Who do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers? How would you answer that?'” We’re going to talk a lot more about this next week, but the scribe responded and said, “Well, the one who showed mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go, you do this. You go and do likewise.” Checkmate, but ask you to help them. Think about this, technically, Jesus actually never answered the question. The question was, “Who is my neighbor?” Actually, if you look at it closely, the lawyer answered his own question.
Jesus said, “Well, who do you think was the neighbor to the man?” The one who showed mercy. Yes, you’ve answered your question. There you go. I just want us to think about this really quick because that’s been our focus here. I’m going to suggest something that an engaged faith, a compassionate and loving faith is a broad faith in terms of its scope. A true follower of Jesus must understand this. The way of salvation and eternal life is a narrow road. It’s a narrow road indeed because it’s the way through Jesus. He said, “If anyone wants to get to the Father, he must come to me. I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can get to God but through me.” Jesus said that. He said, “The road to life is a narrow one, and few there be that find it.”
I mean, Jesus talked about that all the time. If the way of Jesus, the way to God is a narrow road through Jesus, the Son of God who gave himself for us to make it possible for us to be in relationship with the Father, with God, if the way of Jesus is narrow, it’s also a big, broad, loving way. If I can say it this way, the way to life is not only a narrow road in terms of salvation, but it’s a broad road in terms of the love we’re supposed to give in his name. That love, as Jesus taught us, is never to be narrowed down only to people we like or listen to if I can say it in a different way, to people who are like us. In fact, the real power of Christ may show up at its finest when we serve the ones we don’t like, aren’t like, or who can give us nothing that we value, that we value back in return.
Indeed, God loved this world that he gave us his only begotten son. Truly, so we’re told in Romans five, “God commanded his love towards that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Of course, when Jesus was dying on the cross, he showed us at a human level love at its highest level when he prayed for his enemies. Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. The compassion of the Samaritan stands out because it showed up in his seeing and it showed up in his doing. I think, sometimes, just listen to me, hear me, sometimes, I’ve come to understand better that just seeing is an act of compassion. It says that he saw him. He saw the man. Sometimes just seeing in its own way is an act of compassion, but of course, it’s not supposed to end there. Doing is the key.
Ours, the Christian way is a doing faith, a way that is designed to push us past our comfort zones and into sacrificial love. I’ll say that one more time. In fact, maybe you can say that with me. Ours, the Christian way is a doing faith, a way that is designed to push us past our comfort zones and into sacrificial love. Again, remember how Jesus ends it. What does he say? You go and do likewise. Do likewise. I was thinking about this. I just wrote something down, my own little way of a little poem to remind myself. The way of Jesus when humbly applied will lead us into places we would rather not go, push us into spaces we would rather not share, have us listen to words we would rather not hear, and look at faces we would rather not see. I’ll say that one more time.
The way of Jesus when humbly applied will lead us into places we would rather not go, push us into spaces we would rather not share, have us listen to words we would rather not hear, and look at faces we would rather not see. I’m not saying what that is specifically supposed to be. For each one of us, it’s going to be a little bit different. Yet, in some ways, it’s going to be exactly the same. I’m not saying how much it’s supposed to show up in our lives, this activated faith that shows up an act of compassion. But rather, what I’m saying is it is supposed to show up. That you and I, at this time more than ever, need to take advantage of this. Then really consider how is our faith and love for Jesus showing up when it comes to connecting and blessing other people.
This is the time to do it, not just think it, but do it. For us, I was just thinking about different ways that we can do this and in different ways, we’ve been doing this as well already. It may be serving those less fortunate in our community. Loving our neighbor may look like that. So, many of you have already been doing that. There’s been a tremendous amount of volunteer activity around serving the needs of others. We’ve started initiatives to funnel blessing in directions. Many of you have not only let us know how we could help, but you’ve also been helping, in fact, far more have helped. That’s been a very humbling thing to witness. We just want to keep that going in the coming months. We just want to be a conduit of blessing.
We want to let the church create pathways to bless people so that people can bless others in the community. It may be giving our resources to help make that happen. Maybe we can’t tangibly do it physically, but we can give in such a way as we have. You know who you are. Many of you have been giving to help relief staff and volunteers to serve the needs of others and to creatively do the work of ministry. I applaud you and I commend you and the Lord for your utter faithfulness. That is happening in very real and tangible ways in our church. We want that to continue to happen. We’re also trying to bless those who are outside of our church. That has become a very important value for us at this time.
We’ve actually started initiatives. We’re going to keep doing it to build alliances with different ministries in the city. We can specifically help, serve, and strengthen. We want to have those that we are aligned with spiritually that we can support. Sometimes it’s just our workforce of community that we get behind it. It just makes a huge difference. Some of us are aware that we’re reaching out sometimes just to people who are in other countries. We’re trying to bless them too. We do compassionate expressions, like with our Operation Christmas Child and other such things that we love to engage, the missionaries that we support, who also are very important to us. You’re connected to all of that.
For some of us, our engaged faith may look like hosting. I’m big on that, hosting a small group or leading a virtual group. I’m hoping that at some point, that will change and soon. We’ll be able to gather together in ways that we’re more accustomed to, that we feel comfortable with. Some of us feel comfortable with that. Some of us are not as comfortable with that at this point. We have so many different Zoom groups and different ways of connecting that is going on right now. Maybe that’s something that you’re saying, “I want to be involved in that. I want to help coordinate that. I want to be a host for that. I want to help facilitate. I just want to be a part of the community at this time.”
It may mean going the extra mile and listening prayerfully to a hurting friend beyond a convenient hour or a family member. Maybe that’s one of the ways that God wants us to do this right now. For some of us, maybe there’s a name coming to our mind right now that we’re supposed to reach out to that person and let them know, send them a prayer, send them a text, send them a word of encouragement. All of a sudden, you’re on my mind. I send my love in your direction. It might be doing that. It might be praying for our kids and our youth ministry, so that our little ones and our teenagers would know the love and story of Jesus forever and have settled hearts in these very unsettling times.
The point is that Christian love is to be an engaged faith. Always, it’s going to pull us when it is in a challenging place, places of decision and sacrifice that will stretch and grow us, like the Good Samaritan will push us to take the risk. I’ll just leave us with this right now. When it comes to an engaged faith, remember, the real question can never be, “Who is my neighbor?”, because this is what Jesus was really saying, but rather, “Am I a neighbor?” The question really isn’t, “Who is my neighbor?” But am I being a neighbor? Am I loving the way that he wants me to love? That’s the real question.
I have actually another thought behind this to share as I close this out. For those of you who can remember, this is the closest thing we had to our version of giving. You can do that on the app online. Send it in. You have been amazing. You’ve been marvelous. We’ve been just hanging together, holding together. I’m so proud of you. Keep it up as best as you can. May God bless you and prosper, all of us.
We want his love to rise up within us. The question that a scribe asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”, he asked to justify himself. Jesus gave him the story. The story of the Samaritan is the Good Samaritan. Really, what Jesus was saying is, “Will you be this kind of a neighbor? Will you love like this?” I think that’s so connected to where we are right now, so much anger. We just need to be part of bringing his life and love, his goodness and grace, his mercy, his tenderness, and his kindness in as many ways as we possibly can to be peacemakers. I just want to pray. I want you to pray with me if you can. Lord, we just want to be ambassadors of your love. We want to be blessers.
Our hearts grieve, grieve over the sin of racism and ethnic prejudice that seems to not only be part of our nation at times, but it’s also more profoundly seen than others, and part of our world. Honestly, racism is in every human heart. We know we need the great healer to touch us all. So, that we might love the way you want us to love and be the people that make things better. Be with us in the coming days, Lord. We pray. I do ask that you help us to sow, water, and reap. I pray the Lord’s blessing over you, spirit, soul, and body for you are greatly loved. I love you guys.