Go and Do Likewise

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My Musings – “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But…the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

What indeed?  I’ve done it.  Maybe you have too.  The stranded motorist all alone.  Well, who doesn’t have a cell phone these days?  They can call someone.  It’s a busy road, someone is bound to stop.  I’m running late, I can’t be bothered this time, I’ll get the next one.  What if it’s a ruse, I could be putting myself in real danger.  On the other hand, what if they don’t have a cell phone?  Would it be a bother even if I did have the time?  What if it’s a not to well-traveled road?  What if I don’t stop to help, they could be left in real danger?

How about the shabbily-dressed person on the corner with the crudely lettered sign “any amount will help?”  They’re probably running a scam.  They’ll probably use it for drugs or alcohol.  Why don’t they go out and look for a job?  What if they’ve tried it all and just want to feed their family just for this day?

Without getting too political (too late), what about the refugee seeking a better life?  They’re probably here for free benefits.  They just want to come here and change things to the same as what they left.  What if they belong to some sleeper cell?  Why don’t they just come here legally?  What if they really did flee a life and death situation?

Maybe some of the concerns and objections above are legitimate.  After all, there will always be those looking to take advantage. Many of the situations we face will be tough calls.  But do we really want to turn a “blind-eye” to those who might be truly in need because we are afraid of what might happen to us or skeptical hat their needs are genuine?  While we need to be wise and wary, at the end of the day we are responsible for our hearts and actions and not the other person’s motives.

My Advice – We all know that immediately after the above question “and who is my neighbor?” Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Isn’t it interesting that the two in the parable most likely to lend a hand did not (maybe they used some of the above rationalizations), and the one least likely to care at all (the “hated” Samaritan) cared enough to act.  “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.” (Luke 10:36-37, NIV 1984).

Maybe the ones we find in apparently needy situations are our “hated” Samaritans.  Should it make a difference?  The point of the parable is no.  They are just as much our neighbor as the ones we visit with over the white picket fence.

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Why Not Rather Be Wronged!

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My Musings – “I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.” – John Wayne as J.B Books in The Shootist 1976.

As I’ve noted before in my blogs, John Wayne was my favorite actor.  Like many, I admired his swagger.  Also like many, to me this creed that his movie character lived by sounds fair.  Yet it is a worldly creed.  We must aim higher.

Paul states a somewhat other worldly creed in the above condensed verses.  To me the key phrase is “if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

How Far – “The problem is, “as far as it depends on [us]” isn’t really that far most of the time.  All too often we are very thin-skinned when it comes to being “wronged,” “insulted” or “laid a hand on.”  But rather than take revenge, we are to “overcome evil with good.

With Everyone – “Other people” are not just family and friends.  Not just fellow Christians.  Not just Americans.  Not just the same ethnic group.  Not just Democrats or Republicans.  Not just those who share our worldview and opinions. Everyone means all people, even our enemies.

Be At Peace – Apparently this means more than avoiding conflict.  When (not if) the “other people” wrong us, insult us or lay a hand on us (essentially act like an enemy) we are to feed them if they are hungry.  Give them something to drink if they are thirsty.  Elsewhere, Jesus says to the extent we do this to the “least of these,” we do it to Him.

If Possible – At last – the fine print, the loophole?  I don’t think so.  There will be times that “as far as it depends on you” will not be far enough no matter how far you bear with it.  But even then “do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19, NIV 1984).  Walk away and let God deal with it.

My Advice – These are hard words.  But Kingdom living has a higher calling than worldly living.  Our attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus.  “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7, NIV 1984).

 

 

Just Say Whoa to Woe

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My Musings – It’s easy to dump on the Pharisees. After all, their name has become synonymous with self-righteous hypocrisy making them easy marks for criticism and condemnation.  But what if we substituted the word Pharisee in the above verses with the word Christian?  Is that how the world sees many of us?  Are they justified in seeing us that way?  We want to scream that they are way off base.  That we are under attack and being unjustly persecuted.  But we need to be very careful before we dismiss it outright.  For you see, “the problem with self righteousness is that it seems almost impossible to recognize in ourselves. We will own up to almost any other sin. but not the sin of self-righteousness. When we have this attitude, though, we deprive ourselves of the joy of living in the grace of God. Because you see, grace is only for sinners.” ― Jerry Bridges, evangelical Christian author, speaker and staff member of The Navigators.

We might think, why should we care what the world thinks of us?  Well, if they are wrong, and perhaps they are in most cases, we need not care.  Jesus did say, after all that in this world we will have persecution, and that if the world hated Him, we should not be surprised if they hate us too.  But if they are right, even about a minority, we should care very much.  For Jesus also said they (the world), will know we are His followers if we have love for one another.  And if they do not see His love in us and from us, then the truth that we are proclaiming will not seem very much like the truth.

Another reason we should care is because Jesus cares.  He had nothing but condemnation and anger (yes, anger) for the teachers, scribes and teachers of the law that exhibited such self-piety and hypocrisy.  His attitude was not a casual “well actually,” but a very much heated “woe to you!“…”You snakes! You brood of vipers!”  Whoa.  Let’s take a closer look at these “woes” from Matthew 23, NIV 1984, and learn from them.  We do not want to become 21st century Pharisees.

  • Hypocrites – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
  • Sons of Hell – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

  • Blind Guides – “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?”

  • Neglectful – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

  • Greedy and Self-Indulgent – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

  • Whitewashed Tombs, Dead Men’s Bones – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

  • Full Measured Sinners – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!

My Advice – I am sure that the vast majority of Christians are not this way, or at least not blatantly.  But are there times we “deny” God’s grace to those whose sins seem greater than our own?  On occasion, is the way we behave on the outside inconsistent with how we are on the inside?  Do we overly focus on certain evils (“strain out a gnat“), to the exclusion of others (“swallow a camel”)?  Are we so self-absorbed by the “injustices” that we must endure that show no mercy to others?  Let’s just say whoa to woe.

 

Garage Sale Fellowship

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My Musings – Spent time these past few days with my two older brothers as we helped our 85 year old mother with a garage sale (selling many items that she and my dad had accumulated over 66 years together).  We had many visitors to the sale.  Some were neighbors, some were dear friends, some were mere acquaintances, most were strangers.  They represented different ethnicities and social “classes.”  We exchanged pleasantries with all, joked with a few (which garage sale had the best “junk”), had warm conversations with many and prayed with a few.  At one point I remarked to one of my brothers “if more people went to garage sales, the word just might be a better place.”  What a great time of fellowship with those we knew and those we did not.

As a world becomes more and more polarized, we sometimes lose sight of the fact we all have one Father and Creator – who loves us all.  We have one Savior who did not just die for certain ethnicities, social classes or the “deserving” – He died one for all.  He will save all who believe and receive.

My Advice –  Forgive as He has forgiven you.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Give to those in need.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Entertain strangers. Do not oppress or mistreat the alien among you (ouch!).  Love your enemies (say what?). For “[w]hatever you did [or did not do] for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did [or did not do] for me.”  (Matthew 25:40, NIV 1978).  Finally, have a garage sale – just for the fellowship of it all.

A Change of Clothes

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My Musings – A wise former pastor of mine (now with the Lord) once said, “when you read the word therefore, you need to see what it’s there for.”  Paul had just recounted the life we used to walk (anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language, to name a few), “since [we] have taken off [our] old self with its practices and have put on the new self.”  That’s what it’s there for.  A change of clothes.  From the “filthy rags” mentioned above, to the renewed wardrobe that is “in the image of its Creator” woven out of “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

My Advice – We are chosen and dearly loved.  “Therefore,” “over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”  That’s what we’re here for.

 

 

 

Love In Any Language, Inadequately Spoken Here

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My Musings – In my previous musing, I discussed how ambiguous the English language was in conveying (“ear has heard“) God’s love for mankind.  And that in the original Greek, we have a much clearer picture (“eye has seen“).  Yet today’s verse tells us that even then, we really have no idea (“mind has conceived“).  We might as well add that no language can convey.

A common exchange between people who love each other is when one person says “I love you” and the other replies “I love you more.”  With God, the more is infinite.  The more is most.

My Advice – We all want someone who loves us. God loves us unconditionally and incomprehensibly.  Can we honestly say we do not want that kind of love?  He is just outside the door knocking.    Why not let Him in?

Unambiguous Love

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My Musing – In English, the word love can be a bit ambiguous.  I love chocolate. I love my mate.  I love my child.  Same word, different types/degrees of love.  In this text, Paul chose one of the four Greek words that are all translated love in English.  He used the word agape, which is a selfless, self-giving and unmerited love that God shows to humankind in sending his son as a suffering redeemer. (Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). In Harper’s Bible dictionary (1st ed., p. 14). San Francisco: Harper & Row.).

Selfless – “God demonstrates His own love for us.” Demonstrate means to show or express (a feeling or quality) by one’s actions.  He was under no obligation to do so other than His character and being demanded it.

Self-giving – “Christ died for us.”  It doesn’t get more self-giving than that.  It doesn’t get more demonstrative than that.

Unmerited – “While we were still sinners.”  Rebellious offenders (sinners) of what God demands (sinlessness) merit nothing but judgment.  Yet God offers forgiveness.  It was not if you do this (clean up your act) for me, then I will do this (offer forgiveness and salvation) for you.  That would not be a demonstration of love, it would be a demonstration of justice.  Through the sacrificial death of His Son, God found a way to simultaneously demonstrate both His “agape” love and His righteous justice in one act of grace.  “You see, at just the right time [while we were still sinners?], when we were still powerless [unable to do anything to change our sinfulness], Christ died for the ungodly [deserving eternal separation from God].” (Romans 5:6, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Show our appreciation by accepting this free gift.