Hunkered Down Devotion

Luke 10:29b-37 (Voice)
Scholar: Ah, but who is my neighbor?
Jesus: 30 This fellow was traveling down from Jerusalem to Jericho when some robbers mugged him. They took his clothes, beat him to a pulp, and left him naked and bleeding and in critical condition. 31 By chance, a priest was going down that same road, and when he saw the wounded man, he crossed over to the other side and passed by. 32 Then a Levite who was on his way to assist in the temple also came and saw the victim lying there, and he too kept his distance. 33 Then a despised Samaritan journeyed by. When he saw the fellow, he felt compassion for him. 34 The Samaritan went over to him, stopped the bleeding, applied some first aid, and put the poor fellow on his donkey. He brought the man to an inn and cared for him through the night.
35 The next day, the Samaritan took out some money—two days’ wages[c] to be exact—and paid the innkeeper, saying, “Please take care of this fellow, and if this isn’t enough, I’ll repay you next time I pass through.”
36 Which of these three proved himself a neighbor to the man who had been mugged by the robbers?
Scholar: 37 The one who showed mercy to him.
Jesus: Well then, go and behave like that Samaritan.

Immediately before Jesus tells this familiar story of the ‘Good Samaritan’, he is asked a seemingly simple question: What must I do to experience eternal life?  This question, whether spoken aloud or not, is at the center of a lot of our spiritual and religious activity in twenty-first century America.  Many of us are looking for the answer to the question, ‘How do I get to heaven?’  That, in and of itself, is not a problem.  The issue is that often what we really seem to want to know is, ‘What is the least I can do and still get to heaven?’ or to put it another way, ‘where is the line that I have to make sure I cross so that I stay on the ‘good list?’  

While Jesus answers the religious scholar’s question, pointing him to the first two commandments, this story hints at a completely different approach to life than these questions imply.  The first two commandments: Love the Eternal One your God with everything you have: all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind”[ and “love your neighbor as yourself” could really be summed up with one word: Love.

The problem, from the perspective of the religious scholar and all of us that are looking for clear lines to cross and boxes to check in our spiritual lives, is that the law of love that Jesus points to simply can’t be reduced to a neat and tidy checklist.  The parable Jesus tells and the example of the ‘Good Samaritan’ within that parable should not be seen as prescriptive.  Jesus does not intend for us take the Samaritan’s actions and turn them into a check list for entry into heaven.  

Instead, the Good Samaritan’s actions are meant to serve as an indication of what a life ruled and lead by love might look like.  The people that pass the injured man on the road were, presumably, good people.  They certainly would have been assumed to be good, moral people by those listening to Jesus.  The problem for them, and why they failed where the Samaritan succeeded is that they were adhering to and living by the wrong rules.  

The priest and the Levite both were so focused on following the letter of the law that they had learned that they missed the Spirit in which that law was written.  The rules they were following weren’t bad or wrong – Jesus himself said he would not abolish one letter of the law – but both the Levite and the priest forgot that the law of love, the law that all of these other rules came from supersedes everything else.

Jesus tells this religious scholar that love is the law, love is the rule, and love is the guide.  What does it look like to love God with all of who you are and with everything you have?  Do that. What does it look like to love your neighbor as yourself?  Let love by our guide as you answer that question.  Who is your neighbor?  What does love say about that question, and where does it lead you to go and who does it lead you to serve and help?  

Jesus asks us to apply the filter of love to every question we ask and every action we take?  What does love say?  What would a response born of love look like?  There are no easy, clear checklists in this kind of live, but in Jesus Christ we have the perfect example to follow.  

Sharing God’s Love, 

Prayer:   Lord, help us to follow the law of love in all we say and do, as we live in the light of your love for us.  Amen.

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