June 8, 2020
What Is Loving My Neighbor Supposed to Look Like?
DR. DERWIN L. GRAY
Lee en español
"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." Matthew 5:7 (NIV)
Do you ever feel like the injustice, intimidation and violence in our world will never stop? Jesus' world was not that much different from ours. The Roman Empire was not merciful either.
Even the Jewish leaders had serious issues with mercy too. So the common people were caught between the merciless, oppressive Roman Empire and the merciless, compromised religious establishment.
So mercy Himself came to show us a better way to be human. Jesus knew we could never give mercy until we experienced divine mercy. If you do not possess it, you cannot give it away. Jesus, the One who is the endless fountain of mercy, was sent to earth so humanity could come and drink the life-giving waters of His mercy.
As He extended mercy, Jesus also taught us how to be merciful. In Matthew 5:7, He said "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."
According to Jesus, merciful people love their neighbors. But this isn't a sentimental love; this is a kind of mercy that looks like the cross of Jesus.
Jesus told a story about an unlikely neighbor who displayed mercy to an unlikely recipient. We know it now as the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus pointed out that as a man lay on the side of the road, clinging to life, a Jewish priest and a Levite came down from Jerusalem, saw him, and didn't offer to help.
The equivalent in our culture would be going to Sunday worship and hearing the preaching of the gospel, singing songs, receiving the Lord's Supper, fellowshipping and baptizing new believers and then walking right past a person in dire need. Yet we are guilty of doing exactly that!
What we miss is that our relationship with God should always cause us to extend mercy to our neighbors in need. Love is not walking past pain. Love is when mercy meets human pain and suffering.
What Jesus says next would have floored His Jewish audience. He informs them that a hated Samaritan, an enemy of the Jewish people, was journeying on the same road. He saw the beaten, bloodied Jewish man and had compassion for him.
The Samaritan teaches us a lot about mercy.
First, mercy isn't afraid to touch human suffering. The Samaritan didn't avoid the bloodied, beaten man. Rather, he entered his suffering, resulting from sin that was perpetrated against him.
Second, mercy isn't afraid to cross ethnic, cultural and religious barriers. The very thought of a Samaritan being the hero of the story would have insulted Jewish hearers as there was a great deal of fear and suspicion between the groups. Just like in today's world, a lack of proximity to each other created fear and distrust.
Third, mercy costs us something. Helping those in need isn't free. The merciful Samaritan wrapped the beaten man's wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. Then he put the man on his animal and paid for him to stay at an inn and have the innkeeper take care him. In all, he spent "two denarii" to help an injured Jewish man. Moved by compassion, the Samaritan spent 14 days' worth of wages on room and board for a man who was supposed to be an enemy.
For so long in circles of Christians, I have sensed that we think if only we believe the right doctrines, we are following Jesus. But doctrine is meant to be lived, not simply studied or talked about.
Loving your brothers and sisters in Christ across cultural, ethnic and generational lines and loving your enemies are the ultimate signposts that God's kingdom has come. That is living the good life in full.
Can you imagine how different the world would be if we did just that?
Father, as I count all the ways You have been merciful to me, may I be forever grateful. May my heart sing songs of thankfulness to You all the days of my life and on into eternity. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Ephesians 2:13-14, "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility." (NIV)
Luke 10:36-37, "‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?' The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.' Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.'" (NIV)
What is true happiness, and how can we find it? Everyone wants to be happy. We spend our money, time and energy chasing after "the good life," and we run ourselves into physical, mental and emotional exhaustion on the way. But what if the happiness we're all striving for isn't the happiness we were created for? Pastor and author Dr. Derwin L. Gray believes there's a path to true happiness. Discover the good life you were meant for in his latest book, The Good Life: What Jesus Teaches About Finding True Happiness.
We believe in order to make a true and lasting change, we must first seek to understand. But friends, we don't want to stop there. We want fresh understanding to lead to compassion, for compassion to lead to heart-change, for heart-change to lead to home change, and for home change to lead to lasting changes in our communities, nation and world.
So, a few members of our staff compiled the following resources in an effort to provide a trusted place to start. We pray these resources are helpful to you.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Mercy isn't afraid to touch human suffering. Who around you is suffering, and how can you enter into their suffering and show them love?
How can you reach across cultural, ethnic and generational lines to love someone who is different from you?
We'd love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments.
© 2020 by Dr. Derwin L. Gray. All rights reserved.