Text: Luke 10:25-37 – Helping the outcast
I find the question asked by the lawyer a strange question indeed. Obviously this lawyer didn’t specialise in family law otherwise he would have known the answer to his question.
He asks “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
If it’s an inheritance then there is nothing YOU have to do.
It’s not a question of doing – it’s a question of being. Being a child of the one giving the inheritance or be listed in the will.
Likewise, to inherit eternal life there is nothing YOU can do except to wait for the person from whom you are inheriting to die, which for us as Christians is Jesus.
An inheritance is passed on at the death of the one giving.
Unless of course you are brazen like the Prodigal Son who demanded his inheritance now.
Nevertheless the question asked by the lawyer is or should be a question everyone asks.
How do I receive eternal life?
I believe that no one wants to die. We do everything we can to prolong life. We eat right – watch our cholesterol, watch our salt and sugar intake. We exercise.
The plastic surgery industry is alive and well as is the pharmaceutical business both medical and alternative medicine – just look at the health aisle in the supermarket – to make us look and feel younger. To live forever would be everyone’s dream.
So what is stopping people from understanding the eternal life that Jesus offers?
Why is there so much antagonism and rejection of the Christian faith when that is the central message we have?
People should be queuing to hear about eternal life.
Isn’t that our sole purpose – to live in heaven forever?
Isn’t that God’s sole purpose for us?
Remember John 3:16 – our most famous text – For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
So why has the focus on the Christian message by the world been one of seeing us as wowsers and legalists who object to everything?
Why has our message of how to receive eternal life changed from that of “being” and receiving eternal life as an inheritance to that of “doing” and earning eternal life?
Maybe we have been too focused on the wrong message ourselves and forgotten the Great Commission that Jesus left us with – go into all the world and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:20).
As we look at the Parable of the Good Samaritan that Jesus used to explain his teaching we see an example of devout religious people who had lost their mission.
We hear of an Israelite who had been bashed and robbed and left to die. Three people pass him by – the first two being his fellow countrymen. In fact more than that – they were religious leaders of the community. They see him and walk by on the other side of the road.
Why would they do that? Sadly it wasn’t because they were afraid for their lives in case the robbers were still around but because of their religious duties. The priest and a Levite were on their way to the temple. As a priest and Levite they had temple responsibilities but if they made contact with a dead body that would have made them ceremonially unclean. And that would then disqualify them from their temple duties.
So they don’t risk going near the man just in case he is dead. They placed their religious duties above their love for their neighbour in need.
And so this question is constantly put before us to ensure that we have not forgotten to love our neighbour in our zealous desire to fulfil our religious observance.
There may be some situations we disagree with because of our religious values but that can never give permission to not love our neighbour. As Jesus points out, our neighbour is anyone who is in need, even if it is someone with whom we fundamentally disagree.
And the need may not necessarily be physical but also spiritual.
The Samaritan had every right to walk by on the other side of the road because of the way Samaritans were treated by the Jews. But he puts that to one side and helps his neighbour and follows up his care.
Sometimes we may be tempted to walk around an issue because it’s an easy solution or it means we don’t have to become involved.
Or what happens if the person I help is in a lifestyle I disagree with.
You may be able to think of examples where you were challenged to express love to someone while disagreeing with their lifestyle or other situation.
Let us remember that God totally disagreed with our lifestyle and yet showed the greatest of love to us that he could by sending his Son and allowing him to die for our sins. And even while we continue to sin despite this love having been shown to us God continues to love us and forgive us, as Paul reminded us:
God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:14).
So the inheritance that the lawyer eagerly desired has been given to us already.
God is not going to wait till the end of our life to see if we are good enough to have earned our eternal life.
Notice Paul’s emphasis – God HAS rescued us – God HAS transferred us into the kingdom – we HAVE redemption and the forgiveness of sins. So even while we continue to live lives that God disagrees with, he continues to love us.
And there is our challenge – to show love despite the situation we are confronted with.
And it’s not just physical needs but spiritual – the need for love and understanding. Our struggle to act with justice toward the hurting is always going to be challenged by the tendency to stereotype people and associate only with those who meet the criteria that we have set.
It is very easy to discriminate in our hearts and let that guide our actions.
Jesus calls us to imitate the actions of the Good Samaritan, who was despised by all Hebrew society and in the Jewish mind was the least likely to act and demonstrate compassion.
Yet, it is the outcast who acts rightly when others, concerned possibly more for their own needs than right action, failed in their responsibility to be a neighbour.
Let us consider our actions, act rightly, and refuse to stereotype others.
Let us be compassionate toward all in keeping with Jesus’ message of love and peace and go and do likewise. Amen.