Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Do This and You Will Live

Yesterday was a government holiday here in the USA.  It was Martin Luther King day, a day set aside to honour one of the greatest civil rights leaders the world has ever known.  I have always admired Dr. Martin Luther King.  Did you know he skipped ninth and twelth grade and started college at age 15, graduating with a Bachelors in Sociology, Bachelor of Divinity and Doctorate of Philosophy? He was inspired by many people, including Ghandi. He had the privilege of  going to India in 1959 to visit Ghandi. This meeting profoundly affected him and deepened his passion for and commitment to non-violent resistance.  He was the youngest person to ever win the Nobel peace prize for his work to end racial segragation and discrimination.   He was also a Baptisit Minister who focused his efforts on ending poverty and opposing the Vietnam war from a faith perspective. At 6:01 p.m. April 4, 1986 Martin Luther King was assasinated with a single bullet while standing on the balcony of his Hotel room.

The man was a great preacher and his sermons are incredible.  I decided that today, and perhaps throughout this week, I would post a blog initiated by one of his quotes, beginning with the following one:

The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But... the good Samaritan reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"

The parable of the good Samaritan, found in the book of Luke Chapter 10 verses 25-37,  was an illustration Jesus shared to drive home the biblical truth that kindness and goodness should never be witheld from anyone but instead made available to all. In the story, a Jewish man is attacked by bandits, robbing him of all he had and leaving him for dead. As he lay there dying a priest sees him, but purposely crosses over to the other side of the road to avoid him.  Then one of his kinsmen, a Levite, sees him writhing in agony, but also passes him by. Then a Samaritan, (who are despised by the Jews) comes along and feels compassion for the man, not only does he bandage his wounds, but he takes him to an inn, paying the innkeeper to take care of the man, promising to come back should it cost any more than what he has given to meet the needs of the wounded Jewish man. At the end of the illustration Jesus asks the listener "“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?”  The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”  Jesus wants us to understand that regardless of colour, religious belief, sexual orientation, style of dress, intelligence, wealth or poverty, everyone is our neighbour.  When it comes to the greatest commandment "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbour as yourself"  Our neighbour applies to everyone who comes across our path!

Martin Luther King Jr. poignantly addresses the concerns that many have when it comes to helping others, befriending others, loving on others.  If I do this what will happen to me?  What will people think of me? How will I be affected? What will it cost me? His profound response is that our first questions should be how will others be affected if we choose to not care for them  and love on them. 

The parable of the good samaritan was Jesus' response to a religious expert who asked him "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”  

Not only does our disobedience to the greatest commandment negatively affect others, but ourselves as well. What consequences will we face, not only temporal or eternal if we do not help, befriend and love on those God brings across our path? What will ultimately cost you more, taking the time and initiative to love on others or ignoring the greatest commandment by not doing so.  Can we afford to not love our neighbour as ourself?

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