Word for Word 3/27/19

Pastor Steve Oden
Pastor Steve Oden

Was this past winter an extreme one for you?  Perhaps you didn’t even see or talk to your neighbors for months!  A person may ask, “Who is my neighbor? Why should I care?  Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Quoting Jesus, Matthew 7:12, “Therefore (because), whatever (in all things) you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”  In other words, Do unto others what you would want done to you!  This is an incredible and easy principle to understand and live by, but oftentimes do we?   I conclude many of our services with this charge in the closing prayer: there are people waiting on the other side of your obedience for their God encounter- for their miracle. 

This story from the gospel of Luke perfectly illustrates this “golden rule.” Luke 10:25-37 reads, “And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him (Jesus) saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’  He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law?  What is your reading of it?’ So he answered and said, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’”

It continues, “And He said to him, ‘You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.’  But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Then Jesus answered and said, ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him and departed, leaving him half dead (it doesn’t say which half!).’”

“‘Now by chance a certain priest came down that road, and when he saw him, he passed on the other side.  Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.’”  You will notice it says that when the priest and the Levite saw him, they passed by on the other side.  When Jesus saw the woman bound with the spirit of infirmity for 18 years, what did He do?  He called her to Himself and healed her; He set her free that day (Luke 13:12). This contrasts the difference between the heart of Jesus and the hearts of the priest and the Levite in our story.

Continuing on with our story, “But a certain Samaritan, as he jouneyed, came where he was.  And when he saw him (the half dead man), he had compassion. So, he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’”

Jesus speaks, “‘So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?’ And he said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘go and do likewise.’”

“But a certain Samaritan saw him, and he had compassion on him.” Remember, the Jews didn’t have any dealings with Samaritans. So again, a person may ask, Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes! This is what Jesus was trying to get across. It’s not “what you say” you are. Whether you have initials in front of or behind your name, or even call yourself a Christian, it’s “what you do” with who you are. It wasn’t based on who the priest or the Samaritan were, it was based on what the person did, or in this case, didn’t do.

One of the most sobering statements Jesus ever said was this: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of God but he that does the will of My Father.”  There are people waiting on the other side of your obedience for their God encounter. Acting upon this obedience, whatever it may look like, is a believer’s expression of compassion. 

One of my daughters was driving home a few weeks ago and came upon a lady whose car was stuck in the snow. With three small children in her van, she was not able to get out and help push.  But, five other Midwesterners stopped and got the job done. During that time, my daughter was listening to this lady’s day unfold. She had just been diagnosed with cancer, was now late for a job interview and was homeless! My daughter quickly took down her number and said she and her husband would be in contact.

On the other side of that compassionate gesture, I received news that my -closest in age cousin- was found deceased on his couch in his apartment following an operation and hospital stay and therapy stint. Officials had to break down the door to gain entry because it had been reported by a concerned neighbor that his car had not been moved in five days. Upon removal of the body and the door not being secured, thieves walked in, took his car keys and drove off. Neighbors also witnessed thieves carrying other items out of his apartment. Sad story but true.

Who is your neighbor? Make it a point to go out and see one this spring, or take notice of the ones you meet along the way. Fortunately, we live in a very caring community, but I think we can all heed the charge to open our eyes and reach out even more. There are people waiting on the other side of your obedience for their God encounter- perhaps their miracle! If you need or desire prayer for something, I invite you to call me at 563-794-0031.  A team will even come to your home if need be that you may encounter God.

Steve Oden
New Life Christian Church


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