In some families, and sometimes in the family of God, gracious words are disconnected from gracious actions. When people don’t see consistency and continuity, they have every reason to wonder if our words mean anything at all. As the old saying goes, “It’s not enough just to talk the talk; we have to also walk the walk.”
To illustrate the importance of showing our love by sacrificial action, Jesus told a parable. He was talking with the religious leaders that hated a group of people known as Samaritans. They were biracial, descendants of Jews who intermarried with Gentiles after one of the foreign invasions and captivities. The Jews saw themselves as God’s chosen race, and indeed they were, but God’s plan wasn't to turn them into a holy huddle. He wanted them to carry the message of grace to every person on earth. They failed miserably. Instead, the Jews couldn't even get along with their closest neighbors, people who had a large share of Jewish blood coursing through their veins.
In his conversation with the religious leaders, one of them asked Jesus how he could have eternal life. Jesus said to love God with your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. The man, though, wanted to be sure Jesus meant his Jewish neighbors, not any Samaritans or other Gentiles
. In response, Jesus turned his world upside down. His story told about a Jewish man who was robbed and beaten, left for dead on the side of the road. A priest came by and saw the broken and bleeding man, but he didn't stop to help. Then a Levite came by. He, too, gave only a glance and kept going.
Then, a Samaritan came along the road
. His heart broke when he saw the Jewish man lying in the gutter. He bandaged his wounds, put him on his donkey, and took him to an inn to recover. Before he left, the Samaritan gave the innkeeper enough money to feed and house the man for two weeks, offering to pay any extra when he came back. It was an astounding act of kindness, but what struck those listening was the point that the one who showed the love of God wasn't who they expected it to be—it was the one who they hated, a Samaritan
. He was the true neighbor to the man who had been robbed and beaten.
Who are the people we pass by each day in our offices and neighborhoods? Their wounds may not be physical. They may be emotionally broken and spiritually bleeding. They may exhibit their hurts in withdrawal or in outbursts of rage. They need someone to step into their lives to bandage their hurts and stay connected to them during the healing process. Too often, we see someone in need and mumble, “I’ll pray for you.” We may utter a quick prayer, but we really don’t want to be bothered by the other person’s distress. We want our lives to remain uncluttered and squeaky clean.
If we look at the life of Jesus, his life was one of sacrificial service,
always reaching out to touch lepers, the blind, the lame, the sick, prostitutes, tax gatherers, and outcasts of every kind. When we say we want to be more like Jesus, that’s what it means. We treat others the way we want to be treated. The golden rule is still the measuring stick of active love.
Is there a person or group of people you can reach out to today to show the sacrificial love of Christ?