Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What Would Jesus Do?

 “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” 
Matthew 5:7 (KJV)

My brother-in-law, LD, is one of the best-hearted people I know.  It matters not when we call on him for help…he is there, as soon as possible, no questions asked, and he never makes us feel like we are a bother.  He is just that way. He listens to God’s voice when it prompts him to do something for someone.  He’s been known to go against the better judgment of others riding with him in the car to pick up complete strangers who needed a ride.  He always prays before he picks someone up, and if he senses God’s “go-ahead”, he goes ahead.

He, my sister, Debbie, her son, Mark, and my mother were driving along a deserted stretch of road after leaving our house one night.  As they drove along, they saw a car broken down by the side of the road and noticed that the driver was a woman.  They drove past, without stopping, but the Spirit of God began to talk to LD and lead him to go back and help her.  He turned around and turned a deaf ear to the others in the car who were concerned about stopping and helping a complete stranger.  He reached the broken down car and got out to find a woman and two very young children.  Her cell phone was dead, and she was completely stranded in a very remote area.  He let her use his phone, then he stayed and waited with her and her children until someone came to pick them up. 

As they waited, the woman told LD that she had been praying for God to send someone to help her.  She said she was beginning to question whether God was even hearing her, and she was wondering what she had done wrong to cause her prayers to not be answered.  She was just about to give up on God, when LD passed her car.  What if he hadn’t stopped?  What if he had ignored the need and went on thinking surely someone else would help her?  Would she and her children have been safe?  Would someone else have stopped?  We will never know.  What we do know is that he minded God, and the woman was rescued.

In Luke 10:30-37, Jesus talks about another person who was stranded on a lonely stretch of road between Jerusalem and Jericho.  Some thieves had stripped him of his clothes, wounded him, and left him half-dead.  Can you imagine how demoralized he must have been?  We don’t know how long he had been lying there, but after a period of time, a priest happened to walk by.  I can just imagine that if the poor man had enough presence of mind to be coherent and see the priest, hope must have risen in his heart.  A priest!  Surely he would stop and help him and minister to his needs.  But, do you know the priest did just the opposite of what you and I would assume he would do?  When he saw the wounded man, he crossed over and walked on the other side of the road!  Did he pretend it wasn’t happening?  Did he feel a twinge of conscience as he left the man lying there?  Did he think if he moved to the other side of the road where his cries for help weren’t so easy to hear, he would be excused of his moral obligation?  Whatever his line of reasoning, he failed the poor man miserably. 

Later, a Levite happened to pass by.  Ah!  Surely this time help had arrived!  Levites were of the strictest religious order!  They knew the law inside and out and followed it to the tee.  So, that part about loving your neighbor as yourself, surely they knew it by heart, right?  But, do you know what the Levite did?  The Bible says, “when he (the Levite) was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.”  He looked on him!  He saw his condition!  And he made the choice to walk away.  How could he know the law so thoroughly and yet feel that he was justified in not carrying it out in everyday life?  Did he happen to look over his shoulder and feel any remorse?  Did the wounded man’s eyes plead with him for mercy and send a sting of guilt into his hardened heart?  Whatever transpired, he kept walking, and the man kept suffering.

Then along came another person.  I can just imagine the wounded man hearing footsteps coming nearer…and nearer…and with each sound of a step, his hope must have increased!  But, what disappointment as the traveler drew near enough to see his face!  A Samaritan!  Hope was gone, he would never stop.  Everyone knew Samaritans and Jews didn’t speak to each other.  They didn’t interact; they avoided one another at all costs.  There had been generations-long feuding between Jews and Samaritans, so why would this one be any different?  But, wait!  He was slowing down his pace.  He was looking at him!  What would he do?  Would he finish him off and leave him all the way dead?  Would he laugh when he saw his helpless plight?  Or would he see the seriousness of his condition, then cross to the other side of the road like all of the others?  Maybe the wounded man didn’t even want the Samaritan’s help, maybe he recoiled to think of him even touching him, so fierce was the hatred between the two races.

Whatever the thoughts in the two men’s minds, the Bible says, “…and when he (the Samaritan) saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  And on the morrow, when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.”  This man went over and beyond the call of duty.  He couldn’t ignore the injured man’s cries.  He could not walk away and pretend it wasn’t happening.  He couldn’t let their differences stop him from doing what was right. 

Jesus went on to ask, “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among thieves?”  The correct answer was, “he that shewed mercy unto him”.  Jesus replied, “Go, and do thou likewise.” 

Sometimes, our neighbor is our enemy.  Sometimes, our neighbor is different from us.  Sometimes, our neighbor is one who has hurt us in the past and caused us pain.  Sometimes, our neighbor is a stranger.  Whoever it is, Jesus wants us to show mercy.  It is much easier to turn away than to get involved in messy situations.  But, did Jesus do that?  Do you ever read of someone undesirable coming to Jesus and Him looking at them, then turning and going as far away from them as possible?  Did He ever hold back His mercy just because the person was different or unfavorable?  Has He ever been merciful to you, my friend?  “Go, and do thou likewise”.

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