Let's love like this
At a time when people around the world are hurting, I think it’s important we who claim the name of Christ remember what kind of love we are called to emulate: sacrificial, uncomfortable love — the kind of love we read about in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
It's a familiar story to many of us: a Jewish man is on the road to Jericho when he is robbed, beaten and left for dead. A priest and a Levite see the man lying in the road and cross to the other side, continuing on their way. And then a Samaritan, who has every social, political, cultural and religious reason for ignoring the dying man, stops to render aid and comfort.
The primary question the parable seeks to answer is this: Who is my neighbor?
Many of us would identify a neighbor as someone who is physically or geographically near us, someone next door or across the fence. Or perhaps someone dear to us, such as a friend. Or maybe a coworker.
But today, we need to think differently when we consider our neighbors. Thanks to the power of technology, the whole world is becoming a neighborhood.
Our neighbors are not simply people who look like us, act like us, believe like us or love us. Our neighbors are those who have needs we can meet — which of course means everyone. We are to love people regardless of where they live or how they behave. They may speak different languages, they may be of a different ethnicity, but we are called to love them unconditionally.
Imagine you’re the Jewish man in the story. You're lying on the ground, severely beaten and scared. You see a Samaritan man heading your way — and you wonder what he might do to you, since men from your own ethnic and religious group ignored you. But then the seemingly unthinkable happens. The Samaritan picks you up, places you on his donkey and takes you to an inn and treats your wounds, saying he’s willing to pay all of your medical expenses.
While the religious leaders saw the Jewish man, their own fear and prejudice kept them from recognizing his humanity. When the Samaritan saw the Jewish man, he looked beyond his exterior and saw a person in desperate need. He could have said, “I don't have any responsibility here.” But the Samaritan had open eyes, an open heart and open hands.
How would our lives be different if we got up every morning and said, “Lord, I repent of my bias. Give me eyes to see opportunities to share your love and grace with the people around me”?
Like the suffering man in the parable, people today are hurting — mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Scripture tells us we are to “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). The saving Gospel has a profound social impact. When we recognize what we have been rescued from, it should motivate us to rescue others.
So often, we see people as inconveniences or interruptions. We have our own agendas. We’re moving at breakneck speed and, sometimes, it’s easier to ignore the people around us because we don’t want to be tied up or tied down.
Many of us are risk-averse. The Samaritan took a risk and made a sacrifice. He did all he could because he had compassion. And compassion doesn't see obstacles, but opportunities.
There’s something about living in this manner that fills our lives. In fact, we can't live abundant lives if we’re living for ourselves. Abundant life is found in living for others. That's the heart of Jesus Christ. That’s the love and the compassion of our Savior.
And God has given each of us the capacity for that love and compassion. That’s why Jesus told this story.
Perhaps we are so numbed by our times that we seek some kind of psychological protection in turning away. We've stopped feeling, so we've stopped caring.
A woman once wrote a letter to the late Rev. Billy Graham. She said she was not religious and never went to church. She added that most of her relatives claimed to be Christians, yet none of them ever called, invited her family over, sent birthday cards or visited her in the hospital. One of the “Christian” family members told her they didn’t want to have anything to do with this woman and her family because they weren’t believers. The woman went on to tell Rev. Graham if that’s how Christains act, then she didn’t want to have anything to do with them.
Rev. Graham responded to the woman, urging her to look to Jesus because only he is perfect. But he said the letter sobered him, and he couldn't blame her for feeling the way she did. Why should she believe Jesus loves her if those who claim to be his followers don’t love her?
As believers in Jesus, we're commanded to love others. Why? Because God loves people. He calls each of us to love even as he has loved us (John 13:34; 15:12).
How do we love people?
One way is to look for a need and then meet it. Maybe a coworker needs some encouragement or a simple, “How are you doing today?” I don't mean “How are you doing today?” as in small talk. I mean really taking time to listen to the person and be present with them in whatever they're going through. Or maybe a server you have at a restaurant needs to know how much you value or appreciate their service: leave a tip and a kind note.
You may have a lot on your plate. But you never know how a compassionate word or gesture might help someone or even save someone’s life.
At the end of the day, all of us have been the bruised and broken man. And Jesus gave up his very life for us, a sacrifice we will never be able to repay.
The Samaritan man showed his neighbor mercy. So let us go and do likewise.
Dr. Jack Graham is the pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, one of the largest and fastest-growing churches in America. He is the author of the acclaimed Unseen, and his PowerPoint Ministries broadcasts are available in 92 countries and are heard daily in more than 740 cities. Follow him @jackngraham.