Pastor Robarge encouraged us to be the church in this week’s message. Here are some thoughts by Karen Kennedy wrestling with some of the details of being the church. Enjoy!
Recently, I have been reading (actually re-reading and re-re-reading) “Generous Justice,” a book by Timothy Keller.
Keller takes on the subject of justice by searching the Old Testament accounts, and how Israel was set up to make provisions for those most vulnerable, which included widows, orphans, refugees and the poor. He then shows Jesus’ heart to this “quadrant ” as Jesus fitly calls “the least of these.”
Personally, the book is making me feel very uncomfortable. I wish I could say that there was some fundamental problems with his logic or something theological wrong with his conclusions, but there is not. I think he is correct on his assessment on what followers of Jesus ought to be doing. The problem is that I am not doing it.
Not that I am not doing some of it–I am. The problem is that following Jesus demands more than what I have been giving.
Let me expose more of my quandary through a biblical and then a real-life example:
When an expert of the law asked Jesus the famous question, “who is my neighbor?” Jesus doesn’t give an exact answer; instead he tells a story about a man who was beaten and left dead at the side of the road. The two who figuratively represented God, the priest and the Levite, ignored the man, continuing with their lives as normal. A Samaritan, who was considered the dirt of society, took pity on him, bandaged his wounds, brought him to an inn and took care of him throughout the night. His care continued the next day when he made arrangements with the inn keeper to look after the wounded man.
Jesus asks “who do you think was a neighbor to this man?”
What? The question was who is my neighbor? Not who was neighborly? Maybe the expert of the law really wanted to know who was his neighbor? And if he was to love that neighbor, maybe he thought he ought to know whom he should love. Maybe the expert was a list person, like me.
Unfortunately, I do not see a to-do “neighbor” list in this account. What I do see is a traveler who saw one person in need and immediately became committed into helping that person through his troubles. And this neighborly thing cost the traveler time and money, as well as a detour in his traveling plans.
And Jesus says this example shows that loving your neighbors involves mercy, and, at times, inconvenience, risk, money and sometimes danger.
A few weeks ago, in Des Moines, there was a fight that broke out with about 50 young teens. A lot of the details of what happened are still unclear according to the news. However, it was reported that a passerby in a SUV saw one of the teens lying at the side of the road, stopped and pulled the teen into her SUV.
What! I have a million questions to ask: “What were you thinking? Why didn’t you call the police? Don’t you know that you could have been sued by taking an underage child in your car without his parents’ permission? And was he bleeding? And if he was bleeding, weren’t you afraid of getting blood on your hands, and in your car?”
I think I am starting to sound like the possible scenarios (minus the SUV, of course) that the priest and the Levites could have entertained when they saw the injured man at the side of the road. Perhaps their minds filled up with logical reasons why they shouldn’t get involved, but the woman in the SUV, made a quick decision to get involved.
And Jesus tells us to “Go and do likewise.”
To me, that brings God’s second commandment of loving your neighbor to a whole new level. Not sure about you, but if the entire law and prophets now hinge upon loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves, I need to do more than think about it. I need to stop being so convenience-driven and ask God to enlarge my heart, so that my actions line up with His heart of love. I need to stop with all the reasons why not to become involved and “go and do likewise.”
What are the things that you wrestle with concerning being the church? And what should change so that you can show the world Jesus?