We drive a small Hyundai Elantra. When our family is all inside with the car seats and out stuff, we don’t have room for anyone else. On Sunday on our way to church, we passed a man hitchhiking with a giant cross dangling from his neck, and as I realized Gabe was in the car so I could pick him up, I realized Gabe was in the car so we didn’t have room. I joked to my husband that maybe he’s a guest speaker and pastor Joel sent him there to see just how generous and giving we can be. It wouldn’t surprise me if he did. I put it out of my mind for a bit and went to church.
The service left me a good bit wearier in spirit. We’ve been going through a series called People of Justice. Our pastor is talking about what justice is and how do we act as people of justice. The series is right on my wheelhouse. It’s on an area I feel quite confident I’ve got it right and my heart lies in it. Though I am very passionate, so much so that I can’t speak to some with much tact, and this renders me ineffective.
Yesterday we looked at the passage about the Good Samaritan. I dread these trite passages because I’ve read them so many times, I can’t possibly glean more from it, and yet I did. The Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus and they ask him what is the most important commandment, he replies with a nod to the Old Testament: love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself. They reply: who is my neighbor? Several people that I have unproductive conversations with have asked me this. Who is my neighbor? Who counts? Who should we feel obligated to help? Pastor Joel said what I didn’t even know I knew that people say that not to seek out people to help but to get out of helping someone on a technicality. It frustrates me when I have this discussion because I didn’t have the biblical language to explain that we are supposed to be the neighbor. Christ doesn’t waste his time trying to answer the questions (unlike me). He tells them what it is to be a neighbor. He challenges them, are you being a neighbor? There’s also so much history in this passage. I know a bit about the samaritan reputation to the Pharisees at the time. It’d be like an Iranian refugee (someone who perhaps screamed death to America as a child) stopping to help after Jerry Falwell and Ivanka Trump walked on by. Then the Samaritan pours doterra essential oils on him, gives him good wine, pays for a hotel and medical care for him with several days wages and tells the person he’s leaving to care for him “I’ll pay all his medical bills when I get back, just care for him.” Who among us has ever done that? Who of us would? Christ nearly skips over who the man being helped is at all. Why? Because it doesn’t matter who he is, are we going to be a neighbor?
I sat in my seat agreeing and grateful that finally, finally there was a pastor who takes Christ seriously. Finally, we have a pastor who takes Christ at his word and doesn’t look for loopholes for us. He went on to say asking if we are helping to much is the wrong question. We’ve never missed a meal for helping too much. The real question should be what is it going to take and we should be ready to give sacrificially. This sits heavy on me. The man hitchhiking in the rain flashes in my mind. We left Christ standing there. We could have squished into the back seat and given him the front. I started making rolling denials and rationalizations: we aren’t going far and it’s less likely he’d get ride farther from our somewhat isolated church, he wouldn’t have want to cram in with us. Etc. That will keep coming to my mind, just like the people who’s room I paid for but I wouldn’t get them two rooms even though I had the money, just like the woman I didn’t go back to see because she had a man with her that time and it didn’t feel right. The times I didn’t do enough weigh on me. Where was my faith in those times? It was absent. It was lacking. I’ve tried to start being less hard on myself thinking I’d start being less hard on others, but now I worry more about whether I can ever do enough. Not for salvation but to ebb the flow of self criticism and anxiety that I’ve let someone down, that I’ve left Christ down. It makes me think to myself that this is what being Christian feels like. Being burdened in spirit for others. For years and years I heard that we were free from duties and laws and doing enough. That we could never and that’s why Christ died. True, but Christ also loved and died to show us what we should be, what we could be. What is expected of us. We’ll never live up to it, but aren’t we supposed to die trying?
Love. That’s the sum of the law. Love God, love your neighbor. Greater love has no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends. For his neighbor?
The sermon in its entirety. Definitely worth listening to as is the whole series.