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Parables to Live By
“Love God’s Style”
Watch on YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yfDKJ1jbr0
When looking at the parable we’ll be looking at today, the topic of love is at its heart, and hence the name I am calling this parable, “Love God’s Style.”
Now, when this title came up, I immediately thought about the old TV. Series, “Love American Style,” and then the movie, “The Love Story,” where the phase “Love never has to say you’re sorry,” realizing that it was made when smoking marijuana was the in-thing, so I just chalked up this saying to them being out of their minds.
And today the whole idea of what love is has been turned upside down and inside out, in that what people call love is more like lust in its rawest and most perverted form.
But this is not the purpose of this teaching that Jesus brought out. Rather it is about how God sees love, and the parable Jesus taught about it. And it is the type of love Jesus had for humanity, as it constantly says that when Jesus saw someone in need, He had compassion upon them.
Now, throughout the Bible, we see that as believers in God, believers in Jesus Christ, we are to cultivate godly compassion towards those who are in need, which covers more than merely a person’s physical needs, like food, shelter, and clothing; but also, we need to deal with their emotional and spiritual needs as well.
And the question that must be asked in dealing with this issue of compassion, and what the main point of this parable or teaching is “What is our reaction when confronted with people in need?”
Jesus speaks directly to this question in the parable we’ll be looking at today called, “The Good Samaritan.”
But before we enter this parable and look at its various attributes, it may be good to look at what prompted Jesus to tell this parable, this story if you would. So, let’s pick up our reading in Luke 10:25-29.
“And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He (Jesus) said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?’ So he (the lawyer) answered and said, ‘You shall 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.’ And He (Jesus) said to him, ‘You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.’ But he (the lawyer), wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” (Luke 10:25-29 NKJV)
Now this is a familiar story to most. In fact, at another time a lawyer of the Pharisees asked Jesus what the Greatest Commandment was, again testing Jesus, and Jesus gave the same two commandments, to love the Lord with the whole of our being, that is, heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
But the lawyer in our story takes another tack. Instead of asking Jesus about which is the greatest of all the commandments, he asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life, again testing Jesus to see if a fault could be found.
So, we need to take some time and look at this question and how Jesus responded, because this is the same question that people have had from the very beginning of time, and that is, “How can we attain eternal life?” And not just eternal life, but eternal life in the presence of God.
William Hendriksen, a New Testament scholar from the mid 1900’s said this. “It refers to the kind of life that is not only endless in duration, but also priceless in quality.”
Now, in typical Jewish style of debate, Jesus answers the question with a question. He asked the lawyer, what does the Law state, and in doing so he asked for the lawyer’s interpretation of the law, which meant that this was something that God has already revealed. And the lawyer responded with what we know as the Great Commandment.
The lawyer said that which secures eternal life is to love God and our neighbors. In fact, the way that we show God how much we love Him is to love others. And Jesus affirmed the lawyer’s response. Now, the word Jesus used is the word where we get our English word, “orthodox,” which means right, proper, and straight. In other words, the lawyer’s response was the correct one, but then Jesus threw the lawyer, as well as all of us, for a loop. What Jesus went on to says is basically, “Good, now go do exactly that.”
Now, how in heaven’s name are we to love God with all of our being, no less love our neighbor without blowing it somewhere along the way. The answer is that we can’t, which is the reason why Jesus came in the first place, because no one can fulfill the law of God and be without sin.
The Bible makes this clear saying, “There is none righteous, no, not one; … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23 NKJV), or short of God’s holy and righteous standards for life.
In other words, there is no one who is ever going to be righteous enough on their own to get into heaven and that everyone sins and falls short of God’s standards. This is why Jesus came, and by His sinless and perfect life, and by the death He died upon the cross, paying the penalty price for our sins, that a person can attain eternal life with God.
The Apostle Paul said, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV)
This is at the heart of why Jesus came, as Jesus Himself proclaimed saying, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 NKJV)
Now, even though the lawyer knew the answer, he also knew that there was no way that he could keep the law on his own, so like all good lawyers he looked for an escape clause, a loophole if you would in the argument. And so, he attacked the second part, and that is to love our neighbors as ourselves. He thought, like most people today that we can reduce this verse down to mean those that we agree with, which for this lawyer meant those who were the same as himself, that is, Jews.
His attitude was the same as most Jews at that time, and that is, “If you aren’t Jewish, then you don’t matter.” How true is that today, especially in the church. Understanding this limitation that people place upon this designation, Jesus now tells the story.
“Then Jesus answered and said: ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise, a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?’ And he (the lawyer) said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” (Luke 10:30-37 NKJV)
The main point of this parable is that God’s heart is for those in need, or, God’s style of love will find ways to meet those in need. Love God’s Style is displayed for the world to see in how we meet and treat those who are in need, those that God places in our path.
Now, as powerful as this lesson is, it was probably more powerful in Jesus’s day, especially seeing how the story unfolded, and then in Jesus’s parting words, “Go and do likewise.”
The road where this attack took place was well known to the Jews of that day. It was a rocky and dangerous road, notorious for such attacks. It wasn’t a road that someone would take by themselves. Often, groups would form to journey together to reduce the risk of such an attack.
Further, it wouldn’t have come as a surprise to the listeners of the priest’s and the Levite’s response to seeing this man beaten and presumably dead. Such heartless, cautious non-involvement was the expected norm. And the fact that the clergy came across so negatively probably got a rise if not a chuckle from those who were listening, much like the stories or jokes about lawyers and politicians today.
But what really shocked the audience is the hero of the story. It wasn’t a Jew, but rather someone whom the Jews despised, a Samaritan, who was the last person in the world that such a poor and needy Jew could or had the right to expect mercy from.
And so, the power behind the parable was not only who our neighbor is, but also how to be a neighbor. And Jesus reveals several actions that we must take to love our neighbor as ourselves, along with those actions we must make toward those who are in need and that God puts in our path.
A Willingness to Risk Inconvenience
Although this might sound odd, but I believe that every believer has been given the ministry of inconvenience, which is all about meeting the needs of people that have become inconvenient to our lives.
In Jesus’s story, the priest and the Levite are the first to pass by. They were undoubtedly returning home from their duties at the temple where they were offering up sacrifices to God. When they see the man lying on the side of the road, they immediately cross to the other side. Now, we are not given the reason for their lack of compassion, but there are two potential explanations.
First, they may have thought the man was dead, and this would have complicated their lives greatly, because if they would have touched the body, the law made it clear that they would then be considered unclean and would have to go through an elaborate, lengthy, and costly cleansing period (Numbers 19:11-12, 17-19).
Now, they had already been away from their home for some time, most likely an entire month, and so, to have to go back to Jerusalem would be inconvenient to say the least. And so, these two religious leaders refused to act with compassion toward this one God had placed in their path.
From what I read here, is that Love God’s Style risks three types of inconveniences.
a. The Inconvenience of Contamination
When we reach out to the needy, we risk our sensibilities becoming polluted. Often it calls for us to cross over into another world which we are unfamiliar with, but we must be willing to risk the potential of having our senses assaulted.
When being escorted around Mexico by a missionary, I was introduced to a way of life that literally assaulted my senses. I saw living conditions I never through existed, tasted food that I wasn’t so sure about, and smelled the stench of decay that was sometimes overwhelming.
b. The Inconvenience of Being Outside Comfort Zones
It will take us from the known to the unknown and may require us to do some things we have never done or dealt with before.
c. The Inconvenience of An Interrupted Schedule
On that Mexico trip, we had some other things and people to see that day, but when a young girl needed some medical attention, we spent most of the day traveling around trying to find a doctor that could help her.
A Willingness to Risk Personal Safety
Like I said, no one knows why these two religious leaders crossed to the other side of the road, but another possible explanation is that they didn’t want to risk their own personal safety.
As I had mentioned earlier, the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was very dangerous, and seeing this man off to the side may have been a ploy, and that the man was a decoy to lure them to where robbers would be waiting. We’ve all heard of those stories of those hitchhiking have others waiting out of sight. So, these two religious leaders may have wanted to steer clear of any possible danger.
This is a fear that most of us have, and that is if we reach out to the needy that there are inherent dangers involved, like being taken advantage of, being played the fool, or getting hurt.
So, Love God’s Style reveals several things we must do in spite of the risk.
a. Risk of Reaching Out
We must be willing to risk the danger of reaching out to those in need, along with the danger of being used that could cost resulting in a loss, and then there are the risk of geeing personally involved.
b. Refusal to Avoid Others
It’s easy to cross the road to the other side, it’s easy to overt our eyes from those with signs asking for help, and it’s easy to ignore those that are asking for help, sending them someplace else.
A Willingness that Ignores Social Barriers
There was both a racial and religious divide between Jews and Samaritans. And for a Samaritan or for that matter a Jew to stop and help the other is something that was unheard of back in those days.
To the Jew, the word, “Samaritan,” was a term of contempt, in fact, if you wanted to insult a Jew, you’d call them a Samaritan.
The bitterness between the two could be seen in a story told by historian Josephus. One night during the feast of Passover, some Samaritans crept into the city and into the temple and left a couple of dead bodies, contaminating the temple making it unusable for the next seven days. Because of this the Jews were unable to offer up their sacrifices upon this feast day ordained by God.
And the animosity continued to grow between them. Jews had nothing to do with the Samaritans. In fact, on their trips back and forth from Jerusalem to the Galilee they would take a path along the Jordan River that would make the trip much longer.
So, seeing this Jew so badly beaten and dying, what a great opportunity to stick it to him even more. But instead, he ignored the social, racial, and religious differences and reached out to help.
And so, Love God’s Style must be willing to put aside prejudices and ignore social and religious barriers. We need to reach out to everyone, no matter their race, creed, gender, or occupation.
Before accepting the pastorate in Las Vegas, I was asked to go to New Orleans, and the reason is because of my ministry and time spent in Las Vegas. Race and occupation were not an obstacle or issue to me, and my stance was well known in the seminary that I attended. And these two issues were points of discrimination with the churches there.
Most churches, I was told, frowned on those who worked in the casino industry, and the racial divide was quite evident. And so, many were excluded from the social life of some of these churches. But to be fair, it’s like that in just about every community, either racially, occupationally, or by religious affiliation.
But for me, I see it as the height of hypocrisy to say that we can’t wait to get to heaven to worship the Lord with all tribes, tongues, kindred, and nations if we’re not willing to worship with all of them here on earth.
And so, Love God’s Style sees no color or religious affiliation. What Love God’s Style sees are human beings that matter to God, that were made in His images and according to His likeness. And so, Love God’s Style has the Lord sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die so that we all can be saved.
The Bible says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28 NKJV)
Therefore, Love God’s Style
a. Believes in Unity in Diversity
It ignores all social barriers and seeks to free itself from the chains of prejudice that hold so many captives. Remember the Samaritans were bitter enemies of the Jews and visa versa.
b. Accepts and Embraces Differences
In other words, Love God’s Style believes in reaching the lost at all costs. The Jews and Samaritans were bitter enemies, but yet one was willing to look beyond hatred, beyond their different heritages and differences and show God’s love.
A Willingness to Act
In December 1981, a passenger plane crashed into the Potomac River. And what we saw was people both dead and alive in the water. But what capture our attention was a woman so overcome by the shock and the icy water she was unable to grab onto the lifeline lowered by a helicopter. Seeing she was about to go under, an observer on the shoreline jumped in and rescued her.
There were many others that were on that shoreline, but only one was willing to move his emotions into action.
The two religious leaders saw this man by the side of the road, and may have even felt sympathy for him, but they never allowed their feelings to be moved into an act of compassion. But not so the Samaritan. He took action and immediately administered first aid.
And so, Love God’s Style is a love that
a. Must Do Something
It’s a love that helps to meet the needs of those who are needy. It what the Apostle James says in how we must be doers of the word and not just hearers only (James 1:22).
b. Must Get Involved
It goes beyond feelings of sympathy and pity to being involved in the life of those that are in need. It involves cultivating a heart of compassion. It looks for where God is doing His work and joins in with Him.
The next thing Jesus’s parable tells us is that Love God’s style gives both personal and practical assistance.
A Willingness to Extend a Helping Hand
In our story, the Samaritan began by applying first aid, which meant taking from his own clothes and supplies to help. Next, he had to become inconvenienced by placing the injured Jew on his donkey while he walked the rest of the way. And then he extended monetary help in providing for his shelter and food while he recuperated at the inn.
And from this what we see is that Love God’s Style
a. Gets Personally Involved
Up close and personal is its motto. The Samaritan didn’t hire it out to someone else, he rolled up his sleeves and did it himself.
b. Gives Whatever is Needed
It meets the need and then some. Note that the Samaritan gave the innkeeper enough money to keep the man at the inn, along with some extra to make sure all his needs were met.
c. Involves Others
To help meet the need of this injured Jew, he enlisted the help of the innkeeper to care for this Jew’s injuries.
Listen to this power testimony. “There was a man who saw a small girl living on the street who was cold and shivering in a thin dress., with little hope of a decent meal. He said, “I became angry and said to God: ‘Why did you permit this? Why don’t you do something about it?’” for a while God said nothing. But that night God replied, “I certainly did something about it. I made you.’”
Finally, the last aspect found in this parable of the Good Samaritan is that Love God’s Style knows of no coincidences, only God incidents.
It Realizes there are No Coincidences
There is a very significant word in the story that Jesus tells, and we dare not miss it. Jesus said that the Priest “happened,” to be going down the same road. The word, “happen,” means by chance or that it was just a coincidence. And while the Priest and Levite saw it as a chance encounter, in God’s eyes it was a divine appointment, an opportunity for them to extend God’s love.
And so, Love God’s Style Sees Interruptions as Divine Opportunities.
For this to take place in our lives we need to open our eyes and ears to see and hear what is going on around us. We need to be conduits of God’s grace and mercy to those that are in need.
God tests our love for Him, as we are commanded in the Great Commission, through loving others. And what we need to realize is that this can happen at any time. In school we would call these “Pop Quizzes.”
So, we must be willing to risk some inconvenience. Make the conscious choice to forgo some personal safety and ignore all the barriers society places upon us that separates and divides by race, creed, color, gender, and occupation.
Further, Love God’s Style must be willing to open its eyes to see the needs of others and extend a helping hand, offering both personal and practical assistance, and to realize that these are not inconveniences or interruptions, but rather they are divine opportunities to show God’s love so that we can be those conduits of His grace and mercy to this lost and dying world.
In thinking about our need to show God’s love and compassion to all that we come in, whether they be friend or foe, which is what the point of today’s parable, I would like to speak this blessing over us as we leave, it was a blessing given by Paul to the church in Thessalonica.
“May the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, … so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13)
Wednesday Evening Bible Study