Justice and Your Neighbor

One of the most famous and taught parables in the Bible is the parable of the Good Samaritan. I remember as a kid learning a street drama that was used on a mission’s trip that followed the dialogue of the Good Samaritan. It seems that everyone, no matter what culture, language or ethnicity can relate to being in a position of vulnerability. We all at times need the help of another.

Keller in this chapter does an extraordinary job taking this well-known principle and uncovering the heart of its message. As he follows the logic of the both Jesus and the teacher of the law, the reader begins to see the parable come to life. Keller than ends with this challenge:

“According to the Bible, we are all like that man, dying in the road. Spiritually, we are ‘dead in trespasses and sin.’ (Eph. 2:5). But when Jesus came into our dangerous world, he came down our road. And though we had been his enemies, he was moved with compassion by our plight (Romans 5:10). He came to us and saved us, not merely at the risk of his life, as in the case of the Samaritan, but at the cost of his life. On the cross he paid a debt we could never have paid ourselves. Jesus is the Great Samaritan to whom the Good Samaritan points.” (pg. 76-77)

God’s incredible love rings so loudly in this parable. And it is God’s love that compels us into acts of justice for the poor and vulnerable. When we come to recognize that we ourselves have been the recipients of such astonishing love, we can then move with hearts of grace towards others in need.

Why is it so tough?

However, even with this deepening insight into the love of God I still find it hard at times to step out and love others. Why? What makes loving others so difficult? Maybe you are like me and it just seems like some people are tough to love and finding the time to serve them, listen to them, and walk with them through their struggles is extra tough.

Throughout this chapter I was personally struck several times with this realization.

Loving others means stepping out of what is comfortable and into what is unknown, and I don’t like that.  

Why is loving our neighbors sometimes so difficult??? Because leaving our comfort zones is so foreign to whom we want to be. There were several instances in this chapter that I was reminded of this reality in my life.

“But one of the main lessons of the Good Samaritan parable is that real love entails risk and sacrifice.” (pg. 70)

What is so risky about loving others? I asked several of my friends and this was their response:

What if I don’t have the words to say?

What if I don’t know how to help them in their problems?

What if they are addicts and take advantage of me?

I don’t want them to become dependent on my care.

What if I help them and they never change?

Have you felt any of these reservations in your efforts to serve others?

Keller also highlighted this wonderful point from a sermon by Jonathon Edwards.

“If our neighbors difficulties and necessities are much greater than ours, and we see that they are not like to be relieved, we should be willing to suffer with them and to take part of their burden upon ourselves. Or else how is that rule fulfilled of bearing one another’s burdens? If we are never obliged to relieve others’ burdens but only when we can do it without burdening ourselves, then how do we bear our neighbor’s burdens, when we bear no burden at all?” (pg. 70)

Being willing to suffer with them? Really??

Am I willing to suffer along with those I am trying to love? In a society where comfort, security and control are a way of life, thinking about risking and suffering for the sake of others is pretty radical. But then again, the parable Jesus was telling and the life Jesus lived was pretty radical, so what would make me as a Jesus follower think I am called to live a life any different?

Leaving our comfort zones is in many ways counter cultural. It goes against the grain of what we are taught. Our media, money and materialism all tend to bring us into a “my needs first” mentality. And leaving that pressure to step out and put someone else’s needs before ours is exactly what this parable is challenging us to do.

Jesus lived and shared a radical approach to doing justice. It didn’t simply apply when it meant being comfortable and in control. Sometimes, doing justice means willing to leave what is comfy, calm and stable in order to enter into the suffering of others and advocate for what is right and just.

I am grateful to Keller for his powerful exposition of this parable. It’s challenging, relevant and real. I believe this chapter has a lot to challenge and teach us. I certainly face the struggles of this parable throughout my life.

Take a moment and reflect on this chapter. How does doing justice through loving your neighbor confront you? Where have you experienced this trial in your life?

Be radical in your love and embrace the life and words of Jesus by “going and doing likewise.”

Image courtesy of Martin Kenny / Flickr.com
By | 2014-06-30T05:30:17+00:00 June 30th, 2014|Categories: Learn and Apply|Tags: |

About the Author:

John Warden is Reconciled World’s global staff pastor and the facilitator for 2:10. He holds a Masters of Religion from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and has more than fifteen years of ministry experience. He lives in Sioux Falls, SD with his wife and two daughters. You can contact him directly at johnw@reconciledworld.org.

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