The Good Samaritan (2): Love is an Action Word
December 28, 2014
Intro – A traveler just outside Taos, NM, found an Indian lying in the middle of the road, ear pressed to the blacktop. “What are you tracking?” The Indian replied, “Man and woman, late 30’s, 3 kids, one barking dog, SUV traveling 65 MPH.” The guy said, “Amazing. You can tell all that just by listening?” The Indian replied, “No. They just ran over me 5 minutes ago.” So here’s our challenge. Who are we running over that we ought to be loving to Christ?
We saw last week the main message of this parable is the law can’t save you. Jesus shows this law expert the perfection demanded is too high for any of us to meet. The parable is primarily to demonstrate the impossibility of loving God and loving our neighbor with all our heart. Our sins can’t be paid for by us; they must be forgiven by God based on the cross. The parable teaches, “Here is perfect love, and you know very well you don’t meet it, so accept me as your Lord and Savior.” The law can’t save; it shows we need to be saved.
But once we accept Jesus, we get a changed heart. We begin a process called “sanctification” which means we become more and more like Jesus. That’s the second purpose of the law – to show how the family lives. The parable isn’t saying get saved by doing loving others; it is saying, because you are loved by Jesus, love others, too! Even a believer won’t be perfect. But it’s our goal -- to love like Jesus loved? So, how does perfect love act?
I. What Love Doesn’t Do
V. 30: “Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. (A desolate 17-mile road descends 3,000 feet in elevation from Jerusalem to Jericho. Its rocky wilderness provided perfect shelter for robbers. Even going by bus today, you would be hoping bus didn’t break down), and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” Here are 2 opposite responses to human need. Unfortunately, the negative reaction is represented by the religionists – a priest and Levite. Sometimes religion can be the very thing that prevents love. Love is an action word. We can feel for someone emotionally, but never roll up our sleeves and help. That is not love – not until and unless we take positive action. The Bible knows nothing of love that does not act. And when religious prejudice, or any bias, keeps us from acting, we have not loved, we have merely emoted. So, from these two negative examples, we learn two things love does not do. It does not pass by, and it does not pacify.
A. Pass By
The lawyer and Jesus concurred that the law requires us to love God and love our neighbor. But then the lawyer asks a question that reveals more of his heart than he intended. “Who is my neighbor?” (v. 29). Sounds innocent. But think a moment. That question implies there are some who are not my neighbor; therefore there are some whom I have no obligation to love. There are some I can pass by. Jesus’ parable quickly and convincingly puts the lie to that inference, doesn’t it? The parable teaches your neighbor is anyone in need that you can help. The principle is that love doesn’t pass by anyone.
The lawyer should have known this. The law itself taught this. Lev 19:33, “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” That’s what the parable teaches. Who is my neighbor? Anyone who needs help I can give. Who can I pass by? No one. The lawyer asks, “Who can I pass by?” The answer: No one! Love doesn’t pass by anyone in need! Yet, we find a lot of reasons to pass by, don’t we?
Fear of Contamination – The Bible doesn’t say why the priest and Levite passed by. They clearly saw the need and purposely distanced themselves. Perhaps they feared contamination. Touching a dead body would have rendered them ceremonially unclean and required a 7-day cleansing process. Perhaps they feared that. We don’t fear ceremonial contamination, but we fear other things. Perhaps we avoid sick people for fear of contamination – maybe AIDS victims. Perhaps we guard our carefully presented home and will not host groups or individuals who need our love for fear they might mess up the carpet. Beloved, love doesn’t think that way. It trusts God.
Too Busy – Some suggest these guys were scheduled at the temple and too busy to help. But they were going down. Remember the queen in Alice in Wonderland. When told that her people had to run very fast to get anyplace she told Alice, “It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else you must run at least twice as fast as that.” That probably sounds very familiar to us. But it’s time to ask, who am I missing what God has put in my way to love because I’m too busy?
Fear of Repercussions – Perhaps those men feared if they stopped, they, too would be robbed. No use having 2 victims! It’s a common rationalization. Refuse to love because someone might take advantage. If I give that person a meal now, they’ll be back again tomorrow. Others may find out I’m an easy touch. Or, what if the Mexican drug cartel in Guatemala shows up while I’m there on a mission trip? Beloved, I’m not advocating carelessness, but we must seriously ask if fear of repercussion is slowing us down.
The Person is Undeserving – Perhaps they thought that guy didn’t deserve help. He’d been careless and was a Samaritan to boot. He didn’t deserve help. Ever let that thought keep you from loving someone? That person is homeless through their own negligence or addiction or whatever. They will only spend my help on drugs or alcohol anyway. My dear wife solved that problem in NYC where you don’t have to walk the streets long before someone will accost you for help. She didn’t want the help to go to the wrong places so she bought a bunch of Wendy’s food coupons to hand out! We don’t love people because they deserve it; we love them because God deserves it. If God had passed by the undeserving, where would we be?
Prejudice – Prejudice comes in all kinds of colors – anyone who is different from me. We pass by because they are on a lower rung financially or socially. Associating with them might cost us other friends. We all do it, Beloved. I was equal opportunity in grade school, but I went through a time in high school when I got in with what I thought was the in-crowd and would not be seen with some of my old friends because they were different. How ugly.
Some years ago CBS anchorman Hugh Rudd was mugged outside his NYC apartment. He lay conscious, eyes open, but unable to move. He was lucid but could do no more than mumble. Rudd lay from 2:30 until dawn at the doorstep, watching life pass by. Returning theatergoers walked past him into the building. The milkman came and left. No one even stopped to see what was wrong—despite his pathetic attempts to ask for help. There were probably a lot of reasons that people passed by. But love doesn’t do that. Love stays the course, and when it sees need, it responds. To do less is play the part of the priest and Levite – to show we are no friend of Jesus. Love doesn’t pass by!
Love does not pacify. There are 2 ways that we think we love by pacifying. The first is by simply throwing money at a situation that really needs our help. Imagine if the priest or Levite had seen that man, “Sorry, pal, but I can’t afford to miss my meeting. Here’s a few denarii to get you by.” Not very impressive is it. But we do it all the time. Buy ourselves out of true involvement by giving a few $$ for flood relief when we could and ought to be there helping muck out houses. Paying double for the missions fund raiser when we could and ought to be going ourselves. There is nothing wrong with being giving generously to need – unless we are just buying ourselves out of further involvement that the Lord is calling us to. So we must ask, am I giving out of a heart of genuine love or am I just salving my conscience?
The second way to pacify is by enabling – doing for others what they could do for themselves. Master manipulators surround us – usually trained by parents who have good intentions, but can’t discern between love and pity. Countless people have been enabled down the road of self-destruction by well-intentioned relatives and friends who kept on giving when it only enabled continued lazy, addictive, irresponsible behavior. Regularly helping kids with homework is a big contributor. Teaches they are entitled to help for something that’s their responsibility. We all need help at times, but persistently bailing someone out who makes the same mistakes over and over isn’t love; it is enabling and it is destructive. Paul’s love was this in II Thess 3:10, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” Was that mean? No, it was love. Love doesn’t pacify or enable; it insists others take responsibility.
II. What Love Does Do
A. Sees Need
33 “But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him.” We’re all experts at overlooking need, aren’t we? This Samaritan might easily have “overlooked” that hated Jew on the other side of the road. He could have supposed he was dead anyway. He could have rationalized that it wasn’t his business like the others. He could have reasoned that man would not have helped him. Instead he looked need straight in the eye and he acted.
Would you see a Muslim in need? Do you know they are all in need? Jay Smith is a Christian who debates Muslims on the streets corners of London. He is showing love for the best reason of all – to bring them to Christ. He is confrontational, but listen to this advice, “Don’t bash Muslims. Never say Muslims are evil. They’re just like you and me. I have no problem with Muslims. We think they are terrific. It’s the Qur’an we have problems with.” That’s a man seeing a need, not an enemy – just like the Samaritan.
B. Shows Compassion
Now, notice something important. According to end of v. 33 this man had compassion. He was touched. But he didn’t just have compassion; he showed compassion. He dressed his wounds; took him to shelter; paid for services and promised to return. This man paid a great price to show compassion.
He took way more risk than appears. He’d have had to go to Jewish territory to find an inn to leave the man. No Samaritan inn would have taken him. He was like an American Indian in 1850 finding a cowboy with two arrows in his back, placing him on his horse, riding into Dodge City and checking him into a room at the saloon. Tonto or not, he’d have left town dead. That’s the kind of risk this Samaritan was taking the name of love.
Love is an action word in the Bible, Beloved. If there is no action, there is no love. Love takes risks; it can be inconvenienced; it puts the other person first. It doesn’t just emote; it does something. Earl Palmer in The Enormous Exception tells of a pre-med student at Cal-Berkeley who became a Xn after a long journey thru doubts and questions. What tipped the scales, he was asked. He said that the previous term a pre-med student had been very ill with the flu and missed 10 days of school. But without fanfare or complaint a Xn classmate collected all his daily assignments, taking precious time from his own studies to help this young man catch up. The new Xn said, “You know, this kind of thing just isn’t done. I wanted to know what made this guy act the way he did. I even found myself asking if I could go to church with him.” Love shows compassion, Beloved, but it also pays rich dividends. And it shows a waiting world the enormous exception!
C. Spares No Expense
Love pays whatever price it can to reach out to the other person. Certainly there are priorities. We cannot and should not take necessary resources from our family to help someone else. But how about training them to love others also – to part of the process – to learn that love spares no expense. This is why God gives us resources. Not for our own consumption, but so that we can help others. Eph 4: 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” Why does God urge hard, honest work – so we save for retirement or get a bigger TV? No – it’s so we can share with those in need.
When King Saul was trying to kill David whom God had already anointed next king, he was warned by Jonathan, the legitimate heir of Saul but for God’s appointment. Wouldn’t it have been easy for Jonathan to rationalize: “Okay, God has chosen David to succeed my father. I’m okay with that. But if Dad manages to kill him in the meantime, that blood would not be on my hands.” He could have done that, couldn’t he? But he spared no expense, even to the point of knowing it was going to cost him his own throne to do the right thing and to love David by warning him of his father’s intent.
Love that spares no expense can take very simple but hard forms. Tim Keller tells of preaching a sermon on “Love your neighbor as yourself” and saying, “I think God is saying, ‘I want you to meet the needs of other people with all of the joy, all of the eagerness, all of the urgency, all of the ingenuity, creativity, and industry with which you meet your own needs. [There’s the acid test]. That's the standard. That's how I want you to live your life.’” After the service a teenage girl came up and told him that she had just been in the homecoming pageant with her best friend, and she came in last in the pageant, while her friend had won. She said, "Are you trying to tell me that the Bible says I should be as happy for her as I would have been for myself if I had won? I should be just as excited with her as if it had happened to me?" Keller said, "You know, that's a pretty good application of the text. I wish I had put that in the sermon." She looked at me and said, "Christianity is ridiculous. Who lives like that?" The answer is very few, isn’t it? But that is what a real Christian looks like. I can still remember the price my wife paid to love some Indian neighbors who lived across the street from us. She found a Christian Indian church, learned how to relate to their culture. Befriended them, eventually got them to a couple of church events. We don’t know that they ever accepted Jesus, but they knew they had been loved.
Of course, the ultimate example of love is Jesus leaving His throne in glory, taking on all of our limitations for 30 years and ultimately dying the most humiliating death on our part. That is love in action, is it not? It wasn’t something He had to do, but it was something He chose to do because He loved us. John says in I John 4:19, “19 We love because he first loved us.” Once we begin to really grasp what Jesus has done for us, love will begin to pervade the environment in which we live. Eph 5:2, “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” When we get what Christ has done, love will become the air we breathe. Who needs your love this morning? Don’t run over or pass by. Identify one person to whom you can make love an action word. Let’s pray.