“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother of sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”James 2:14-17
God loves to lavish kindness on us. The bigger your conception of God, the more amazing this is. God is creator of the universe. He holds the galaxies in being. He governs everything that happens in the world, down to the fall of a bird and the number of your hairs (Matthew 10: 29-30). He is infinitely strong and wise and holy and just. And amazingly, he is kind. ‘When the kindness of God appeared . . . ‘ (Titus 3:4). And because of this kindness, we were born again. Let your very existence as a Christian tell you every hour of every day: God is kind to you.
– John Piper, Finally Alive
25On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27He answered: ” ‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
28“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”Luke 10:25-37
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
In Luke 9:51-56 (Encounter 36), there is Samaritan opposition to Jesus coming to their town. In this case, several of the disciples ask Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven to destroy the town. Jesus rebukes them and they re-route to another village.
After a lot of interaction with the disciples and many crowds of “common” people (with accompanying healings), Jesus is back in the presence of an expert in the law. As has been the case before with the Pharisees, the expert seeks to “test” Jesus to find some deficiency or heresy.
We see how Jesus confidently engages and turns the question around on the questioner: “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” When the expert answers, “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 love you neighbor as yourself,” Jesus tells him he has answered correctly. Jesus himself says that doing these two things sum up all the Law and the Prophets.
When you think about it, the more our thoughts and actions are guided by seeking to simply love God and love others, the more likely our lives are to reflect Jesus’ teaching; we’d be more merciful, compassionate, kind, gentle, generous, etc. and less judgmental, selfish, fearful, materialistic, self-righteous, proud, etc. This focus on love (God is love, we seek to become more lovingly Christlike and the Spirit is working within us to make this possible) means our lives become guided by it. This is very different to “trying harder” to exhibit/eliminate the virtuous/negative qualities. Love frames every teaching of Jesus and it is the generative force of living a holy life pleasing to God.
While Jesus commends the expert’s response, he takes the teaching a level higher in telling a vivid story, as is often the case. Jesus tells a story of a wounded man on the side of the road who is bypassed by both a Levite and a priest (presumably both highly religious and seeking to obey the law). Along comes a Samaritan who has compassion on the man and tenderly cares for his wounds, carries him on the back of his donkey and takes him to an inn, where he spends the night caring for him. He leaves the next day, but tells the innkeeper that he will return to pay any extra expense that is incurred as the innkeeper looks after the man.
As background, Jews hated Samaritans, viewed them as inferior and treated them as such by restricting their rights. The feeling was presumably mutual – this likely plays a role in the Samaritan village’s rejection of Jesus seen earlier in Luke. The Samaritan traveler would therefore have very little natural inclination to help the wounded Jew, while you would expect the Levite or the priest, as fellow Jews compelled by the law and common ethnicity, to help him.
Jesus’ teaching cuts to the heart of the merciful love that he exhibits towards us and asks us to likewise have for those around us. In the kingdom Jesus describes, true love is not measured by how we love those who love us or who can do something for us; rather, it is measured by how we treat those who human logic would suggest should be our enemies.
While this sounds next to impossible, the life of indiscriminate, active love that Jesus suggests is the core of experiencing “life to the full” in this life. By graciously loving those who “deserve” our disdain or hatred, we ourselves are set free from anger, fear, judgment, pride, the need to retaliate, etc. . . . all the things that keep us locked down in a small world living a small life. Likewise, the recipient of such graceful love experiences something completely unexpected – a small, but vivid taste of God’s grace from a very unlikely source. The “unworthiness” of the object of love is what makes it grace, as it is in our wholly undeserved redemption through Christ!
After finishing his illustration of what loving one’s neighbor means, Jesus tells the expert to, “Go and do likewise.” The expert sought to trap Jesus, yet he leaves being blessed by Jesus’ teaching. Jesus here loves the one that sought to catch and accuse him. His teaching and actions are perfectly unified.
Lord, help us go and do likewise. Let us dwell on your incredible grace towards us today and humbly seek to mercifully love every person you put in our path. To your glory, King of all the Earth.
“A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous. He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”Proverbs 13: 22, 24
“For God is the King of all the Earth; sing to him a psalm of praise. God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne.”Psalm 47:7, 8