“Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” – Luke 10:36-37
“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” – James 5:16
I’m learning things about myself that I didn’t really want to know. While I know that God has called me to write, and while I know that He uses Heart Medicine in spite of me, God also knows me. Writing is a safe format for a self-conscious and often-skittish people-pleaser like yours truly. With no expectation of a face-to-face sitdown between writer and reader, I can courageously drop some drive-by truth and continue on my merry way. I can say what needs to be said, without having to walk it out with you. Pretty convenient, right?
But lately God has been challenging me – calling me to a deeper level of discipleship that relies heavily on relationship. It’s forcing me – pillow and blanket and all – out of my comfort zone, as I don’t just drop off the truth of God’s Word and leave, but actually walk the road of applying God’s truth with a few people that He’s assigned to me. It’s sometimes inconvenient and often messy, and when I do it in my own strength, it’s just plain exhausting. So I have to keep growing right alongside my little God-appointed garden of friends. And for me, it’s definitely life on a learning curve.
Recently, this new perspective made me take a look at an old story. In Luke 10, Jesus is asked a simple question (Verse 29) with a not-so-simple answer, “Who is my neighbor?”
Posed by a lawyer looking for loopholes, this question leads into the parable of the Good Samaritan (Verses 30-37) – but don’t miss the context here. In the beginning of the chapter (Verses 1-12), Jesus sent 70 of his followers on a missions trip. Two by two, they went to various towns to tell people about Jesus, and Jesus’ instructions were clear. If they were welcomed, then they were to bless those who welcomed them – and they were to stay put for a time. Jesus specifically said not to go “house to house” (they didn’t need to beg, and they also needed to know that God had them where He had them for a reason).
In essence, they were to establish a relationship with the people who took them in. They were to eat what was put in front of them (trusting the Lord and being grateful for His provision), to heal the people in that house (ministering to their physical needs), and to tell them about the kingdom (ministering to their spiritual needs).
So now, let’s lay that blueprint on top of the illustration of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan got involved and invested in someone else’s struggle. He inconvenienced himself, got his hands dirty, and took on a stranger’s problems at his own expense (Verses 33-35). And instead of moving to the other side of the road, like the priest and the Levite, the Samaritan chose to share the road with the desperate traveler. He not only walked the road with him, but carried him down it. He “did life” with this lost and broken man, until he was whole again.
I’m sure none of these truths are new to you, but I don’t think we can over-stress it in today’s Christian circles. It’s so easy to detach from the needs around us. It’s so easy to move through life in a fog of self-involvement and to even do ministry at arm’s length, but that’s not what Jesus did. He wept. He ate with people that others wouldn’t even acknowledge. He touched the unclean and gave dignity to the disenfranchised. And He did all that, so He could draw them in to meet their greatest need – their need for salvation (Matthew 5:16, John 15:12, Acts 20:35, I John 3:17).
Share the gospel every chance you get. Tell the world that Jesus saves. But know when to share the road and walk through someone’s struggle with them (Proverbs 17:17, 18:24, Ecclesiastes 4:12, Galatians 6:1-2, 9-10, James 5:16, I John 1:6-8). Weep a little. Get involved, and represent the love of Jesus in their lives, because, if you can carry His love into their world, it just might penetrate their hearts.
And in case you didn’t know, anyone and everyone is your neighbor (Luke 10:29, Mark 16:15).
Know your neighbors. Share the gospel with everyone you can, and when God gives you opportunity, share the road with someone who needs help getting to the cross.