Sunday, May 25, 2008

Getting Off Your Donkey

Today’s sermon came from the text of Luke 10:25-37. It’s the story of “the good Samaritan” that Jesus told in response to the greatest commandments and to being asked “who is my neighbor?” Jesus used the parable to illustrate the principle of loving God and others.

Chad delved deep into the details of this parable (which I recommend hearing for yourself when the sermon is uploaded on our church website). The man who was robbed, beaten, and left for dead was in desperate need of help. However, no one seemed to be willing to come to his aid. Chad explained some of the reasons why the priest and Levite passed him by. Some of the reasons include the laws of that time. Touching, or coming near a dead body (if they assumed he was dead), wasn’t something they were permitted to do. Their SHADDOW wasn’t even allowed to fall on it or they would be “unclean.” So, that was one of the many reasons they “passed by on the other side.” They also may have been on their way to the temple to perform obligatory duties required of religious officials and therefore, couldn’t be “bothered.”

So, after being ignored by two people, a “good Samaritan” came along and showed mercy and compassion on the injured man. Chad said that the fact that Jesus used a Samaritan for the hero of the story likely would have caused a gasp in the crowd. And, the fact that he called the Samaritan “good” would have really made it a hard pill to swallow because Samaritans and Jews didn’t get along and had a great dislike for each other. Chad said that saying “good Samaritan” to them would be like saying “good terrorist” to us.

So, this presumed “enemy” took the time to stop and help a person in need. He had the characteristics of the agape love we’re all supposed to have; the selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional love that is of God (and that IS God) because GOD IS LOVE (1 John 4:16). Chad said that agape love is indiscriminate, bold, inconvenient, risky, time consuming, expensive, and even hurtful to one’s social status. We find all of those elements at work here:

Love is Indiscriminate

True love doesn’t discriminate. The Samaritan helped the man regardless of religion, race, personal opinions/judgments, etc. He didn’t let rules, prejudice, or hate get in the way. Unlike the other two, the Samaritan didn’t buy into any possible excuses for why he couldn’t help. He had mercy and compassion on the man; like we are supposed to have on all people, whether friend or foe (Matthew 5:43-48).

Love is BOLD and Risky

The injured man had been robbed, and the Samaritan had to be bold and courageous enough to possibly even risk his own life to help him . The whole thing could have been a trap; staged in order to entice a new victim. Though, even with all these possible dangers, love won out!! Love is worth the risk! Love others even when it doesn’t make sense!! (Though, I don’t think we should “throw caution to the wind.” Let the Holy Spirit be the discerning and deciding factor).

Love is Inconvenient, Time Consuming, and Expensive

The Samaritan probably had other plans for the day, but he took the time to be “bothered” by someone else’s needs. In order to help, he had to stop, get off of his donkey, and go to the man. He took time to bandage and mend his wounds. Then, he put the man on his donkey and took him to an inn to take care of him further. That takes a lot of time, energy, and effort!! He had to come out of his comfort zone and give of himself in order to help. He even paid for all the expenses involved with the man’s care!!

Love Hurts One’s Social Status

Associating with people that we, or society, deems as “lesser” will hurt our position in the world’s eyes. It’s for that very reason that some refrain from loving/helping because of the fear of “what will people think of me if I‘m seen with him/her?” Both the priest and the Levite have a good rung on the social status ladder. They couldn’t be bothered with the poor victimized man and likely had higher business to attend to. Besides, they couldn’t “break the law” to be around, or even seen near, a possible dead body. Though, in Matthew 5:20, Jesus said: “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Love goes beyond rules and laws. That’s why Jesus didn’t mind reaching out to the tax-collectors, prostitutes, and other “sinners” that everyone was prohibited from associating with. Therefore, Jesus’ “social status” was tarnished in the eyes of some because he dared to love the unlovable and broke their rules of etiquette. Loving God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind (and loving your neighbor as yourself) are the greatest commandments. They go above any “don’t eat this…don‘t touch that…..don’t associate with…” kinds of things. Mercy and compassion overrules them all, and that is why the Samaritan helped and the others didn’t. He knew that his “neighbor” was ANYONE in need. That principle outweighed anyone’s opinion of him for helping someone possibly considered “lesser.”

So, who are you going to “get off your donkey” for? What opportunities do you have to agape love someone? How will you contribute to God’s Kingdom on Earth? Our communities, and our very lives, will be transformed by the every day opportunities that are acted upon by every day people willing to love and help their neighbors in need. Chad said that to the degree in which we embrace the essence of agape love will be the degree in which we have transformation. Can you imagine if everyone just started doing everything in an agape way? It would start a chain reaction, like the ones in these TV ads. I don’t know if you have seen them before, but I just love them because they beautifully show that even in small ways, a person can and will make an impact!! (Click here and here to watch!!).

In addition to those videos, I would also like to share one that the church showed us today. It is a video of Michael W. Smith advocating for Compassion; a child sponsorship program. At church, it was mentioned that statistically, 1 in 100 will sponsor a child in need. 1 in 100?!! That’s 1%!! Come on!! We can do better than that people!! Let’s have the “each one, reach one” mentality!! Let’s not shy away from the pleading little faces because we’re too afraid that we’ll be convicted to help (which we should be!!). ;) Have the guts to look at this video and consider sponsorship (and if you already do sponsor a child, GOD BLESS YOU!). We are a blessed and abundant nation, can‘t we share the wealth? Can’t everyone help AT LEAST ONE CHILD in the name of Jesus?? If we all did that, we would reduce and eliminate poverty DRASTICALLY!!

So…….did those videos motivate you to love and help your “neighbors”? I know that there’s a lot of food for thought in this blog, but hopefully, it will speak to your heart as much as it has spoken to mine. Today’s sermon is already having a transforming impact and chain reaction. I know this for sure, because it has already affected me and other brothers and sisters at church today!

I pray that we’ll all love others the agape way by first getting connected with God (who IS agape love!!). When we know, share, and display that love from God, others will see and experience Him. John 13:35 says: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” It’s not hard to start loving; just do what Chad said and “start from where you’ve been.” Give to others what you have been given! Be part of someone else’s testimony by sharing yours!! You never know what impact you are going to have on someone! Make the most of every opportunity God places before you; even if it’s as simple as helping someone in your own home!!

God bless you all!! I agape love all of you!!! OXOXO

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