Love the One You’re With

Posted: January 14, 2010 in Uncategorized

I wonder if the expert in the law had wished he had staying in bed after he encountered the real Jesus. In the Gospels so many people approached Jesus with their own agendas and left changed. They were dumbfounded, perplexed, challenged, uncomfortable, questioned, rebuked, comforted, healed, forgiven, but they always left changed. This expert, (interesting that he is called an expert), I am sure he really did not expect to learn anything from an untrained Galilean. I am sure that he felt he was well equipped to test and challenge Jesus. His degrees and years of experience led him to believe that he was. I can not help but wonder how many times I have approached Jesus full of myself, believing I have it all under control, that I know what I am doing. How far from the truth that is. Interesting question this expert asks Jesus. Even more interesting is Jesus’ response.
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, 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 oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins 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.’
“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 10:29-37
“Who is my neighbor?” Great question. How many people am I responsible to love? How can I love them all? How do I love them all? What’s the limit to this command? Surely, Jesus it cannot mean that I am to love them all? How can anymore accomplish such a daunting task?
Again, I will tread on the boarder of simplicity, but what does the word “neighbor” in it’s simplest form actually mean? Is it not simply the person next to you? A neighbor is the person in closest proximity to you at the moment. The person you are with? Perhaps it is the person closest in your thoughts? Maybe your neighbors are those you are most closely related to, starting with your family, your distant family, your friends, your co-workers, those that live near you, those you attend church with? (I would love to give a shout out to a great book written on this subject from which a great many of my thoughts have been shaped, Concentric Circles of Concern, by W. Oscar Thompson. Definitely worth your time! Buy it on Amazon now)
So that’s the question for us all, “Who is your neighbor?” In Jesus’ story it is the poor traveler beaten, half dead on the side of the road. The other travelers were going about their business, traveling to wherever, and God presented them with this opportunity to shine. Clearly this man was in need of help. If love is meeting needs this man’s needs were self-evident. He was beaten, bleeding and dying. God was giving each character in the story a chance to live love, to do something significant, to make a real difference in a real life. When God brings someone across your path they have become your neighbor. As a love machine we reflect God’s great love to those around us. Each person is needy, some are great actors and you may have to dig to find the need, but we are all needy. A love machine looks to meet those needs. Those people in your life, those are the ones to love. God has surrounded you with a sea of humanity. This is not an accident. You are not an accident. Your life is not an accident. The people around you and the situation in which you find your self, is not accidental. You are here on purpose, with a purpose to love. You can begin by touching your toes to water and take simple steps towards those around you. But eventually, if you want to follow Jesus, you are going to have to get all the way in. Why not through those inhibitions and fears aside? Why not through your arms back, leap off the ledge of safety and swan dive into the sea around you? Yea, it’s scary but feel the thrilling freefall of freedom as you soar over the edge.
Well some may ask, who will meet my needs?
This is a legitimate question. Well, if you do not take into consideration the “Who.” God is the “Who.” From a right-thinking perspective who can provide for you better than God Himself? Do what He asks and He will take care of you. Surely God will take care of those who follow Him. Consider this, perhaps deep down your greatest need is to obey your Creator and meet the need of the person in front of you. In doing this you will be connecting to your highest calling and greatest purpose. I have often wondered if this is what Jesus meant in John 4:31-34.
Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something. “But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.
Jesus’ recognized His need, His sustenance was something more than the food He ate. He had a higher calling that surpassed His physical needs. I reflect again about Jesus’ temptation experience in the wilderness. Remember how Satan tempted Him to turn the stones to bread. Jesus had not eaten for weeks. I feel famished if I have not had lunch before 1 PM. I cannot imagine going on 40 days of fasting. Jesus responded to Satan’s test with, “Man does not live on bread alone, but every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Maybe there is more to life than worrying about how my needs are going to be met? Maybe this is the key to living free. If I approach you looking to get something from you how does it make you feel when you sense this? You feel used. I may get what I want but I made a serious withdraw from our friendship in the transaction. When love is my highest priority, when meeting your needs is the focus of my actions, everything changes. Your guard is lowered. My expectations are different. Love wins. I win. You win. God wins! As the ‘Good Samaritan’ saw the desperate individual he responded with his heart. His heart was broken and love compelled him to do something. As he entered the life of this poor victim he was inspired to give and when he did, he was inspired to give more.

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