Book Suggestion: Philip Yancey has a book called, What’s So Amazing About Grace?that dives into the biblical requirement for Christians to be gracious, but how our sin so often makes us bitter, cold, and unforgiving. I highly recommend this book if you are wanting or needing to confront this issue in your life.
- Luke 10:25-29 And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” And he answered, “YOU SHALL 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 YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE.” But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Of course, leave it to a lawyer to get technical and ask a question like this (just kidding). But, isn’t this what we all do? We try and see how technical, lawful, and biblical we can be and still be as wicked in our hearts as possible. This lawyer knows the Law says to love your neighbor. But, he wanted to control the stipulations as to who his neighbor was. We do this as well (I like you, so I’ll be nice to you. I don’t like you, so I’ll give you the cold shoulder and pretend I don’t see you or your needs).
But, how did Jesus cut straight into this guy’s heart?
- Luke 10:30-37 Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”
BAM! Where was that lawyer going with that answer? Nowhere!
See, all societies have classes and levels of influence. Some are quite pronounced (like India’s caste system or England’s royalty tiers). In the U.S. we used to have very pronounced levels based on breeding, wealth (especially if you came from “old money”), family name, occupation, where you lived and went to school, and so forth. Nowadays, ours is less pronounced, but we still have classes. We classify people based on their intelligence, level of education, philanthropy, political party, religious affiliation, etc. And, with that we find ways of designating some as neighbors and some as outsiders unworthy of our love or concern.
Jesus took that lawyer’s self-righteous excuse for excluding people whom he didn’t classify as “neighbors” and flushed it down the commode. He gave the story of a man who, while in his greatest need, was purposely ignored by a Jewish religious leader, then ignored by a member of the priestly Levites (Jewish worship supporters), and then helped by a half-breed, despised, and hated Samaritan. That was like a slap to the face!
We need to love each other and stick closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). We need to also show that same kind of love to a lost and dying world, many of whom we find unattractive due to their lifestyles, beliefs, immorality, and false gods.
Brooklyn Tabernacle is pastored by Jim Cymbala, a great man of prayer. His testimony is phenomenal as he began pastoring a run-down, slum church with no previous seminary or pastoral experience. He cried out to God in deep prayer, and led his church to become itself a prayer-oriented church. In time this church which was on the brink collapse began to see God do a miraculous work as they began reaching prostitutes, drug dealers, and the list goes on. Today they are a thriving church of about 10,000 which is still reaching the least, still reaching sinners who are trapped by their sin.
- Cain hated his brother Abel. The Jewish lawyer hated his neighbor, the Samaritan. Who do you hate today? (and don’t tell me that “hate” is a strong word. That’s what God calls it!): ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Now’s the time to pause and ask God to forgive you and to give you a heart of love towards these people (Ezekiel 36:26).
- Waikoloa is a very pretty community, but it is filled with very ugly people (and I’m talking about inside their hearts—I am nottalking anything as shallow as their looks).
- Have you ever considered how much sin and degradation resides here in Waikoloa? ____________________________________
- Do you know people who are maybe vile, disgusting, immoral, abusive, “slimy”, or whatever other terms would fit their personalities? _______________________________________
- Maybe you know some of the nicest, sweetest people here. But, if they’re unsaved have you ever considered that they are still sinners on their way to Hell? ____________________________
- Have you ever considered that loving them begins with the Gospel? ___________________________________________
- So, what are you going to do about it?
- Now, pray for these people you’ve pictured and recalled, that you will have the opportunity to share the love of Jesus and that His Word will convict their hearts to salvation.
- Jesus says that if we love Him we’ll keep His commandments. What was the last major commandment He gave us? ______________________________________________________
(Hint, Matthew 28:19-20)
- Why is it that we don’t evangelize? Could it be because we don’t love Jesus?
- Acts 8:4 tells us that everywhere the early church scattered that they spread the Gospel—the Good News of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to save sinners from eternal damnation. Why did this happen so organically? Because the love of God was shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5) and they couldn’t help but pour it out to others!
- Matthew 21:22 “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
- John 14:13 “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
- Take time now once again and pray for Waikoloa. Ask God to move mightily with His Spirit in this community to convict the lost, to send laborers from this churchinto the fields, and to bring in a great harvest of souls.
Today, love your neighbors and demonstrate that love by praying and witnessing to them.