I love re-imagining the gospels in order to cast Jesus’ teachings in modern times. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be “The Parable of the Good Samaritan.” Just bear with me on this.
On one occasion an expert in the law, Pat Robertson, stood up to test Jesus. The other religious leaders in attendance–John Hagee, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Ron Luce, James Dobson, Billy Graham, and Joyce Meyers–leaned forward to hear what he would say. “Teacher,” Robertson asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Bible?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
Robertson 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 Robertson wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Atlanta to Ft. Lauderdale, when he was attacked by muggers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A prophet happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, an evangelist, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Muslim, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on iodine and hydrogen peroxide. Then he put the man in his own car, brought him to a hospital and took care of him. The next day he took out two thousand dollars and gave the money to the doctor. ‘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 thieves?”
Robertson replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
* * *
What I wouldn’t give to see this play out in real life. I can just picture the expression on Robertson’s face. Anyone who has watched Robertson’s show has heard him repeatedly rail against Muslims. But his attitude isn’t much different from the Jews of Jesus’ day. The Jews hated the Samaritans. Samaritans were looked upon as being especially sinful because they had intermarried with outsiders and disagreed theologically with the Jews. The Jews didn’t associate with them–didn’t talk to them, didn’t accept food or water from them, didn’t regard them with any kind of equality.
Then Jesus comes along and tells the “righteous” Jews to be like the helpful Samaritan. Because, to Jesus, it didn’t matter how well one supposedly understood the Law of Moses. It didn’t matter how much one fasted, prayed or tithed. It didn’t matter what titles a person held or how many books he (or she) had written on religious topics. And it still doesn’t matter. What matters is that a person love others. To meet the needs of the needy. To not be hateful. To not be judgmental. To not take pride in one’s salvation. In other words, Jesus will take a kind Muslim over a self-righteous Christian any day.
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love[…]. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. You are my friends if you do what I command. This is my command: Love each other (John 15:10,12,14,17).
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45).
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head” (Romans 12:20).
Want to get to heaven? Love. Want to be an effective witness for Christ? Love. Want to be secure in your salvation? Love. Want to live a rich, meaningful life? Want to be blessed in your walk with Jesus? Want to see your prayers answered and the doors to your destiny swing open? Love, love and love some more.
And don’t be fooled by thinking that love is simply a warm feeling in your chest. Love requires action. Love is full of compassion; it sees a need and reaches out to meet it. Love is forgiving; it doesn’t hold grudges. Love bites its tongue when bitter, hurtful words spring up in the heart. Love remains patient and kind whenever faced with bad attitudes from others. Love volunteers when others would rather sit and complain. Loving requires a great deal of effort.
Imagine if the person you found dying on the side of the road was your worst enemy. What if it were Adam Lanza (the Sandy Hook shooter)? What if it were a gang member? Richard Dawkins? Rush Limbaugh? A member of the Taliban? How would you respond, knowing your actions might affect their eternal soul–and yours? It’s worth thinking about.
That sound you hear is a “standing ovation.” Amen!
April, these past few posts have been excellent. God’s love is scandalous, His grace is simply unbelievable. It’s scandalous to out present religious society. I don’t think He approves of our modern day Pharisaical culture in the church. How different would our country, our world even, look if the church truly followed those two commandments: Love your God and love your neighbor? These are heavy thoughts for me. It makes church attendance a struggle sometimes, but then I have to remember that my neighbors are also in my church.
Too true! The Bible commands us to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, even when they’re unpleasant or lack understanding. This can be the hardest job. But God’s love is revolutionary and changes lives and attitudes. As Christ’s disciples, we’re to live as an example to other believers: in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity (1 Timothy 4:12). After that, we must leave the work in God’s hands.
One of my resolutions for this year is to love more. Already I can see the fruits of this effort. My circle of friends is expanding, my eagerness to serve in ministry is growing, and my past depression and anxiety has evaporated. I feel like I’m glowing from the inside out.
One thing that may help you in your quest to love more is to just determine that you will focus on people’s positive aspects instead of their negative ones. Close your ears to the back-biters and go looking for words of faith and encouragement. That alone has made a huge difference in how I see people. I’ll still critique bad attitudes and crush some toes when the occasion presents itself, but otherwise I let people be who they are. 🙂