The following are the notes from this week’s CROSSROADS lesson. Words in bold identify key phrases from notes pages handed out each week. If you would like copies of our slides, please feel free to reach and request them. As these are from the notes pages for each week, please excuse any typos or grammatical errors.
This lesson is part of a series called “What Does It Mean To Be A Christian”. To see an overview of this series, click HERE.
The life of someone who follows God is inherently different from one that lives for their own interests. That might be an easy thing to see when we talk about charity and forgiveness, but what about our normal, everyday interactions with people? What about how we react to people who we might just not think about? Does God have a design for how we interact with EVERYONE?
Here is the inconvenient truth about being a Christian: if we are really following Jesus’ example and following his teachings, EVERY relationship we have will look a little bit like Christ. The past few lessons we zoomed in on relationships with family and significant others, but Jesus interacted with a ton of individuals that he really ONLY SAW ONCE or twice. Did he treat those people “less Jesus-y”? No, that’s just silly. Jesus performed tons of miracles for these acquaintances, often not near large crowds. He was showing a truly SELFLESS LOVE for these people he barely knew.
Think about that phrase. Jesus showed a selfless love for people he barely knew. Can many of us say the same? See, this opens up a really, really interesting difference between Christianity as many people practice it and Christianity the way it is taught by Christ. Christianity as we have made it… as a ‘religion’ in 2018… is something we apply when it’s obvious. What do I mean by that? Well, we show up to church, we say prayers and if you are good you may even have God as the centerpiece of your relationships with family and significant others. Those are places where it is clear you are supposed to have Jesus. The impossibly high standard… and often that is precisely what it is… that Jesus has set is that our faith and our unconditional love will even apply to people we don’t really interact with that much.
Why is it important to bring this up? Is this lesson just to make everyone… including myself… feel bad that we don’t follow God “good enough”? No. This is important because it goes to our witness and how people see Christ in us. When people see you showing love and forgiveness to people you are already close with, it doesn’t look too much different from just being a “really good person” by anyone’s standards. However… when you see someone going out of their way to be kind and loving to someone they don’t really “need” to care for, that sticks out. What it shows people is that God really is LEADING our lives and when God leads, you see the effects of it in ALL of our relationships.
Let’s go back to that phrase from a moment ago. ‘Jesus showed a selfless love for people he barely knew.’ This is something that has always been ‘weird’ to outsiders which is why Jesus gave us a parable to help explain how it looks. The parable is one we overlook and often misinterpret: the parable of THE GOOD SAMARITAN.
Before we get into this story, let’s recognize who Samaritans were. They weren’t just ethnic people who lived near Israel. In today’s world, we talk a lot about race, but it doesn’t really come close to touching how Jews and Samaritans felt about each other. You see, Samaritans were basically people who stuck around in the area during a time when Israel was conquered and the Jews were split. You have stories like Daniel in the lions’ den which come from the Israelites being dispersed in Babylon. The Samaritans were people who weren’t necessarily dispersed. Furthermore, some of the pagans who lived in the land, at one point, supposedly started worshiping the Jewish God which meant you had non-Jews practicing religion with Jews. The different ethnic groups eventually blended and as a result the “pure” Jews from Israel began looking down at the Samaritans. This led to generations of Jews and Samaritans thinking better or less of each other and becoming rivals. This split over into their religious practices where priests from both sides would argue against intermingling and socializing. Things got so bad that there were constant attacks and revolts between the two groups leading to segregation and violence.
With all that in mind, you can see how the Samaritans were considered rejects by the Jews in a HISTORICAL, ETHNIC, and SPIRITUAL way. The phrase that got used often was that the only GOOD SAMARITAN was a DEAD SAMARITAN. If you think things are bad in our country today, this was 100 times worse!
Let’s take a look at how Jesus describes the interplay between the good Samaritan and a Jew. Keep in mind, as you read this, that he is telling this story to other Jews.
Then an expert in the law stood up to test him, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the law?” [Jesus] asked him. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind;” and “your neighbor as yourself.”
“You’ve answered correctly,” [Jesus] told him. “Do this and you will live.
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus took up the question and said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.’
“Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
“The one who showed mercy to him,” he said.
Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:25-37)
Jesus paints a picture of a Samaritan… someone historically, ethnically, and spiritually rejected by the Jews… as doing everything he can to meet the needs of this injured Jew. The Jew was beaten within an inch of his life and stripped naked. That means that the Samaritan would have been taking his own possessions, bandaging this stranger who he is ‘expected to hate’, and takes him to an inn to recover. Did you notice the conditions given to the inn keeper? There were none. It was an unconditional sense of responsibility to show love and compassion to this individual the culture said he was to hate. Contrast that with our world today. Contrast that with the practice of Christianity today. Is this the kind of love we see from the church? Do Christians act like this? Do you act like this? What this story really shows us is exactly how extremely Christ’s love truly is. The love the Christ teaches, which is the love that WE SHOULD SHARE isn’t limited by ANY WORLDLY BOUNDARY. It’s not limited by ethnicity, class, popularity, history, or even spirituality. We are not a social club or a clique. If we are living for Christ, we have a high calling that may not make sense to those around us. It may even seem crazy! However, in that ‘craziness’ that people around us see, they will see the love of Christ. THAT is what it means to live like Christ and THAT is what it means to “show God through how you live”.