“He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’
What does it look like to truly follow Christ? I think so many times for us we wonder if what we are doing is the right thing, if we are allowed to do or say different types of things, or if we can associate with certain people. We need to stop. We need to break free of the mindset that faith is a set of rules. Faith with Christ is a relationship, an authentic relationship shared with the creator of all things. It’s so easy in the church world mindset that we have to follow a certain list of rules in order to be allowed in the club. Following Christ is not about earning enough gold stars to go to heaven, it’s about a relationship of love with the king of kings. This can be difficult. We live in a modern age where following Christ can be pushed to the side. We have endless entertainment and can post pictures of our bible on Instagram without ever actually reading it. The crazy thing is, this has been a struggle since Jesus came onto the scene. No they didn’t have hours of shows to stream on Netflix or some Jesus and coffee aesthetic to keep up with on Instagram. What they had was the core of the struggle, what does it look like to truly follow Christ?
The verse above is the key. The context of those verses was one of the experts of the law asked Jesus to explain his statement. The first voice is that law teacher, he is restating what Jesus preached earlier, and Jesus replies with the truth that once we do that we have true life. I like to think about the teacher of the law being like us, we hear that statement and totally agree, but wonder how to actually do it. The law teacher wanted to prove that his actions were on the same lines that Jesus was preaching (spoiler alert: he wasn’t, quite the opposite actually). So Jesus, who I like to imagine gave a subtle smile at this teacher, decided to share one of his most famous parables. This parable is of the Good Samaritan, a story that outlines what authentic faith is. It outlines two dangers we face in our walk and ends with the truth of how we are to act. I think this is vital. In your life you will face these struggles in your walk, and if you don’t have a walk with Christ, I hope you read this and see a picture of what a Christ follower is to act like. I think many of us have been burned by the first two dangerous people, and not enough of us have been impacted by a Samaritan. So I hope you read this and feel encouraged and aware. We need to understand that faith in the modern age is not impossible, it simply requires an authentic relationship.
The Pretentious Priest
The story begins with a Jewish man traveling. As he walks we see the glowing eyes of bandits, think the eyes of the Jawas from Star Wars as they stalked R2-D2. Okay maybe it wasn’t fully like that. Essentially the man is beaten and robbed, left for dead under the hot sun. Enter our first character, the pretentious priest. Scripture says he saw the man and passed by on the other side. Dang, that’s cold. This is our first danger we face as Christians, we can get caught up in a pretentious nature that we forget to care. I used to be in a school where we had classes about proving your faith. It was so hard to be in these classes because we made non-believers into the enemy rather than a person who needs to know that God loves them. That’s not faith. In a Christian world we can so often be consumed with knowing more of the bible than you, or serving more. Stop. We are called to love God and love people. Jesus never said you were saved based on how many verses you learn or how tired you are from serving Sunday. Memorizing scripture is beneficial to our walk and serving is an incredible thing, but when we focus on this, we forget God. We become like the pretentious priest who didn’t have the time to care about what was really important. So our priest leaves the picture and leaves no impact, his only legacy becomes the fact that he left a man to die but continued to pretend he was a man of faith.
The Lethargic Levite
Next, our everyday guy enters the picture. In historical context, contact with a dead body was not acceptable before doing temple duties. So the Levite was justified…psych! You didn’t think that was real right? Actually, the part of the verse that said “going down from Jerusalem to Jericho” means that the temple duties would have been completed, meaning that the Levite could have touched the body that appeared to be dead. He chose not to (Boom. I just wrinkled your brain). The Levite was lazy, he simply believed he had better things to do. Isn’t that so easy for us? We fall into lethargy pretty quickly. We say things like, “I don’t feel like it,” or “I have better things to do.” We choose to sit back and let someone else make a difference when we have been called for greater. So the Levite goes down in history as one who had every opportunity to save a life, but chose to fall into his complacency and be forgotten.
The Selfless Samaritan
Our final figure enters and we need context help. The Samaritan people were hated by the Jews. They saw them as less important, and therefore, never wanted to associate. Samaritans were outcasts and the Jewish people made sure they knew it. So a man who had every right to walk away from a dying Jewish person, would make contextual sense, but that’s not how the story goes. The Samaritan helped the man, cleaned his wounds, and paid for him to be kept care of until he was healed. This is the way we are called to live. Even when people spit words of death at us, we are to love everyone as our neighbor and bring them from the brink of death to life. Faith is being selfless when the world says you can be selfish. We are called to leave a legacy of love. Even when life is hard and we don’t owe anyone a single thing, we are called to make a difference. To love God and in turn love our neighbor. This is what real faith is. Faith in the modern age is selflessly following Christ with love, and in turn, loving our neighbors.
At the end of Jesus telling the parable he asks the teacher a question. Jesus asked which one was a true neighbor to the man who was dying. The teacher replied by saying, “the one who had mercy on him.” Jesus closes the argument by giving a call to action. One for the teacher, but also for each of us. Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.” Faith is acting in love. We are called to have an authentic relationship, and because of that, treat everyone as we would want to be treated. It is a simple idea, but requires hard work.
In this modern age, be a Samaritan to everyone, even those that hate you.