Reading Through The Bible in 2011, Part 21

What I Read Today: Luke 10.

What Stood Out Today: (The parable of the Good Samaritan) Luke 10: 36-37, “‘Which of these three do you think became a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ The expert in religious law said, ‘The one who showed mercy to him.’ So Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do the same.’”

Random Thoughts About What I Read:

I like the parable of the Good Samaritan, but more for the dynamics in play than the story itself.

See, you have an expert in the Law, and Jesus. The academic asks a question. A good one, too. When you think about it, the most important question on the planet: “What do I do to get eternal life?”

Jesus responds with a question, that, when we read it, we don’t get the cultural impact. Sounds simple enough, right? “What is written in the Law? How do you understand it?” This would be akin to asking a Harvard graduate to recite his ABC’s. It’s more or less Jesus turning the tables on the smart guy. He’s asking the most important question in the universe and this itinerant prophet is telling him to tell him what he learned in kindergarten.

Then it gets even more interesting.

The expert recites his ABC’s. Jesus tells him that he got it right…as if the academic didn’t know that already.

But Jesus then tells the academic to, well, um…

…DO THAT.

I’ve done time in graduate school with academics. I consider myself an academic because much of my day is spent trafficking in the ideas of other people to come to my own conclusions so I can teach my students truth. The one thing those of us who are in academia DO NOT want to hear is, “GO AND DO IT.” I gotta admit it’s a heck of a lot easier to come up with a lesson about prayer (more on that tomorrow) than to actually be a person of prayer.

“So, love God and love your neighbor! Yay! You got it right! Now, get out there and love your neighbor!”

Like any good academic, he asks Jesus to define His terms: “Well, before I go and do that, exactly WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?” Don’t you love the implication? I mean, heaven forbid that I get out there and love someone and that person isn’t my neighbor, right?

Well, Jesus decides to answer the question. “Who is my neighbor, you ask? Let me tell you a little story…”

It’s the well-read parable of the Good Samaritan. A guy gets mugged on the 17-mile journey to Jerusalem…likely on his way to worship. Worked over pretty good, too. It’s possible he could die from his injuries. Two people who have religious and racial ties to the mugged guy are coming BACK from worship–a priest and a Levite. The cross the road to avoid having to deal with him at all. Then a reviled Samaritan (Jews & Samaritans had a long-standing dislike of one another for a while) has basic human compassion and sets the mugged guy up to get better.

And then Jesus asks a question that is equally as forthright as the earlier one about what the academic learned in kindergarten: “Now, which one was the neighbor?”

Again: Go and do it, scholar. It’s a lot easier to read about it or write a paper on it than do it, right?

It’s always tempting for me to go the route of the mugged Samaritan outcast guy. I mean, I have long hair and tattoos. Now, I’m aware of the first impression I make on folks in my homogenous suburban community. You should see the looks I got at the PTA meetings when my girls were younger. Clerks at Wal-Mart who were very outgoing with the nice grandma in front of me say nothing to me and look at nothing but my purchases going over the scanner. Parents who meet me at church see my tattoos sneak out from my rolled-up sleeves and their experession changes. We all want to be the one that other folks have compassion on.

But that’s not the point of the story at all.

The point of the story is to love your God and love your neighbor.

And no amount of academic tap-dancing can redefine who your neighbor is.

So, today, who are neighbors in our own home?
Who are our neighbors at school or work?
Who are our neighbors we come across in the normal warp and woof of our days? The clerks, the teachers, the coaches, the customers, the kids, the folks next door, the friends, the…

…well…

…I could go on and on.

And how do we show them love based in compassion?

Because it’s a lot easier to talk about it than it is to do it…but love is a verb.

And a choice.

No way to tap dance around that.

(Tomorrow’s reading: Luke 11)

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