WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, July 11, 2022 - “BE A NEIGHBOR BECAUSE WE HAVE A SAVIOR”
Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s reading is Luke 10:30-37, where Jesus responds to the question, “Who is my neighbor?”
30 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. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 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. 35 The next day he took out two denariic 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.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
“BE A NEIGHBOR BECAUSE WE HAVE A SAVIOR”
The Good Samaritan is one of the most beloved, most used, and, at times, misused passages of Scripture. Virtually everyone knows the story. Many rightly see the Good Samaritan as a metaphor for Jesus as our Savior. (Note that the context of the story is a question about eternal life; see Luke 10:25). He, like the good Samaritan, pays the price to save us and offers us life as a gift by grace, which then urges us to love others mercifully as He first loved us. Others see it in a more limited way. They see it as the distilled moral teachings of an ancient Rabbi whose only message was, “Show mercy to people.” That’s it. If that is all there is to Jesus, then we do not need to hear His other words which assert, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). We can omit his call to “repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Instead, just be tolerant and merciful, or at least try the best you can. I’ve even had people write to me and say that this is Jesus’ view of politics too. Whew! Who knew the passage could be used and misused so boldly!
Here’s a few things to think about today. When people start saying, “This is what the passage means to me,” it’s good to remind ourselves that there are other passages in Scripture that help us be faithful to the meaning of the one before us. Therefore, it’s good to remember that on the cross Jesus declares, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Then and there He defines what His main message is, namely paying the price for humanity’s sin. Earlier in His ministry, He tells Martha that Mary has chosen the best thing of all, namely, to sit still and listen to His life-giving Word (Luke 10:38-42). The point is that Jesus’ teaching can’t be reduced to mere moralisms for this life! Yes, the attitude of “be merciful” is to be unleashed on the world. But it comes from those who have first been “mercied” by Jesus, who trust in Him by grace through faith.
Jesus does motivate us to get involved in people’s lives. But this is no political platform for policy. Jesus isn’t telling “Caesar” or other earthly governments to “go and do likewise.” (There are other passages in the Bible which help us determine what earthly authorities should and should not be doing; for example, see Romans 13:1-7). The coercive power of the state is not the instrument of Jesus’ mercy; that’s work for His Church, His people. This is a call for you and me to open our eyes to others and to “go and do likewise.” It’s a call to really get involved in people’s lives. There will likely be costs for sharing mercy; pay those personally, joyfully. There will be “comfort zones” to overcome as well. Don’t let any of the people whom the Lord brings into your lives be outside of your commitment to “speak the truth in love” for them (Ephesians 4:15). Always remember how Jesus drew near to be a neighbor TO YOU; then be that kind of neighbor IN HIM for those whom He brings into your lives. Be a blessing to others in your life. As Jesus himself put it, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, deepen my understanding of the merciful neighbor You are for me, so that I might be that kind of neighbor to those whom You bring into my life. AMEN.
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