Thursday, November 12th

Thursday, November 12th

Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ "Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” Luke 10:30-37

We saw yesterday that those who allow religious practice to become their primary focus instead of a relationship of love and compassion with God, have little love and compassion for others. This is because the compassion with which God relates to us becomes the compassion with which we relate to others. Those who are caught up in a system of religious practice that is all about performance, following the rules, measuring up by being good enough, self-righteousness and pride, etc., miss God's love and compassion and become ones who look down their "religious" noses at others.

This is very much what is dealt with in today's passage as well. Jesus shares the story of the Good Samaritan in response to the question, "Who is my neighbor," which a leader of the religious system had asked him. Through the story Jesus answers the question by saying that your neighbor is the one who needs you to be a neighbor to them no matter who they are. Being a neighbor to those who need a neighbor is what God's mission is all about. When we relate to others with a compassion and love that comes out of the compassion and love we are experiencing from God, we become channels through which God brings his redemptive love and provision to a battered and hurting world.

Religion is a pseudo-response to God. It is a game of making it look like God is back in the equation. Religion is the product of sinful, twisted hearts that circumvent God's mission of redemption. It is religious flesh exalting itself in substitution for God, while all the while (deceptively) proclaiming all is for the glory of God. The collective impact of "religious" people is a world of people who turn their backs on God because they assume God is as much without compassion as those who claim to love and serve him but turn their backs on the world. Religious people turn their backs on the world because they have (often unwittingly) turned their backs on God in favor of their system of religious practice.

Lord, I ask for a work of grace in my life that helps me die to sinful self more than ever and makes me wonderfully alive to you and the fullness of your love and compassion. As both recipient and agent of your love and compassion make me a true neighbor to those who need a neighbor. Deliver me and your people everywhere from all religious substitutes and perversions that nullify the redemptive mission you are seeking to accomplish with the world. Amen!

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