Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Wanting to Justify Myself

I love the story our Lord springs on the "expert" in the law in Luke 10. Most of us know the story...The expert stands up and asks of Jesus the question for the ages..."what must I do to inherit eternal life?" To which Jesus responds with another question, "what do you think the law says about this?" The expert gives the correct answer (love the Lord with all you got and love your neighbor as you love yourself) and Jesus says you've got it right, "do this and you will live."

Don't we wish the story had ended with that? There is comfort in the ambiguous nature of the word - "neighbor" - isn't there? If the story had ended there we could all decide for ourselves just who we think our neighbor should be. If the story had come to a halt right after that "live" word life would be so much easier. But it is the rest of the story that kills us.

The "expert" gets the bright idea to "justify"himself! Dang it! Why does he have to go and do that justification junk? He asks Jesus, "WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?"

Jesus answers that question with a story: the parable of the good Samaritan.

Three glaring truths jump out of Luke's account of this exchange between the "expert" and the "Eternal One":

1. You know the expert did not like the story one bit. Most likely he is a Jew and we know that Jews hated Samaritans. It would be like James Dobson telling a story to a group of flag waving veterans - "the Catholic priest passed by ... the Christian pastor passed by ... and the Iraqi Muslim stopped and helped." You get the idea. No doubt there were gasps in the crowd. In fact, when Jesus asked him who was a neighbor at the end of the story the expert couldn't even bring himself to saying the word "Samaritan" - he simply calls him "the one who had mercy"

2. We don't get to pick our neighbors. Thanks to this expert fellow the playing field of "neighbors" knows no boundaries. With one story all chalk lines of race, class, sight, smell and behavior are erased on earth. Our job description is changed from loving those we choose to love to the difficult task of loving those that God chooses to put in our path. Thanks a lot Mr. Expert!

3. Loving God without loving others isn't possible. It is not enough for God's followers to commit to refraining from "beating people up." Claiming that you're not a robber is not equal with claiming Christ. And neither is "passing people up." Sometimes we allow ourselves to be deceived that passing up people is not as bad as beating people up when in truth it is. The robbers left him half dead - physically wounded. If enough people had passed by this man who's to say that emotional rejection wouldn't have finished him off? Make no mistake. This story mandates that we be people who "pick people up!"

I said earlier that I wish the story had ended with "do this and you will live." I would have settled for ending it with the expert's response in verse 37. But NO ... Jesus has to get the last word in on this subject. He has to wrap it all up for us - put flesh on it - make the application:

So much for justifying myself...

1 comment:

Sam Middlebrook said...


Great summary on point number three. There's lots of folks who think that Christian fiath us purely vertical, and I don;t see that anywhere in the teachings of Jesus.